Aug 30, 2019

Politics in Asia Pacific: Prominent activists Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow are arrested in Hong Kong

By Shibani Mahtani

Democracy activist Joshua Wong addresses crowds outside Hong Kong’s legislature during a demonstration against the extradition bill on June 17. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)
HONG KONG — Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow, who rose to prominence as the student leaders of pro-democracy street protests five years ago, were arrested Friday, their organization said in a statement, in a widening crackdown on activists and demonstrators in Hong Kong.
The group, Demosistō, did not immediately have details on their charges. A spokeswoman for the Hong Kong Police Force could not immediately confirm the arrests and the circumstances under which the pair were detained.
Wong was seized at roughly 7:30 a.m. Friday “when he was suddenly pushed into a private car on the street,” his organization said. Chow was arrested a short time later at her home, Demosistō added. Both are being held in the Hong Kong police headquarters in the Wan Chai district. 
The group has sought help from its lawyers.
The arrests come at a tense time in the semiautonomous Chinese territory, where an official proposal to allow extraditions to mainland China triggered months of protests that have increasingly descended into street battles with police.
As the demonstrations have turned violent, and grown to encompass a broader push for democracy in Hong Kong, authorities have stepped up arrests and the use of force. China’s government has issued increasingly strident threats in an effort to quell the protests.
Wong rose to prominence as the face of the 2014 Umbrella Movement, a 79-day street occupation aimed at securing universal suffrage for Hong Kong. He was charged and sentenced several times in connection with those protests, and served three stints in jail. Most recently, on May 16, Wong was sentenced to two months in prison after losing an appeal against a prison term for contempt of court. He was released in June.
Chow was arrested along with Wong and Nathan Law, another party leader, in 2017 ahead of Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s visit to the city, but was never charged or imprisoned. 

Agnes Chow, right, and Joshua Wong outside government offices in Hong Kong in June. The pair were arrested Friday in a widening crackdown on the pro-democracy movement. (Kin Cheung/AP)
This time, the protest movement in Hong Kong has taken a leaderless form — in part to avoid arrests and detentions that plagued leaders like Wong in the past, and also to empower a broader base of participants. Demosistō members, unlike in 2014, have not delivered speeches at rallies, nor have they been prominent faces on the front lines, but have used the group’s social media presence to help the movement gain awareness globally. 
“We’ll use our influence and connections with the international community to tell the world about what’s happening,” Chow said in an earlier interview with The Washington Post. “It’s still very important.”
Wong and Chow were due to travel to Washington next month, where they were to meet with lawmakers and participate in a Congressional Executive Committee on China hearing on the Hong Kong Human 

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