WEEKEND: Hong Kong Police Warn of More Arrests After Sweep of Activists… Major demo called off? New Enemy: Lampposts

Hong Kong Police Warn of More Arrests After Sweep of Activists

(Bloomberg) — Hong Kong police arrested prominent opposition figures including Joshua Wong — and warned other protesters could share their fate at illegal demonstrations this weekend — raising tensions as authorities seek to quell pro-democracy demonstrations that have raged for almost three months.

The 22-year-old Wong, who was scheduled to speak about the protests in the U.S. next month, was among well-known pro-democracy activists arrested by police on Thursday and Friday. Those arrested included Wong’s fellow leader of 2014 Occupy protests, Agnes Chow; independence advocate Andy Chan; and District Councilor Rick Hui.

Police said more than 20 people were arrested since Thursday, and warned at a briefing Friday that others could be charged if they take part in protests without official approval. A colonial statute passed during a wave of deadly riots in the 1960s allows authorities to the power to imprison those who participate in unlawful assemblies for as long as five years and more than 900 have been arrested on a variety of charges since June.

The arrests were part of a broader push back against the largely leaderless protest movement, which flared up in June over now-suspended legislation allowing extraditions to China before widening into a broader push for more democracy. The Civil Human Rights Front — the organizer of the biggest recent demonstrations — said Friday it was forced to cancel a rally planned for Saturday after police withheld approval.

 

Hong Kong police round up activists as major demo called off

Hong Kong (AFP) – Prominent Hong Kong democracy activists including three lawmakers were arrested Friday in a protest crackdown — a move described by rights groups as a well-worn tactic deployed by China to suffocate dissent ahead of key political events.

The sweep comes after a major rally planned for Saturday was banned by police on security grounds, and then called off by the organisers.

The latest protest had been due to mark the fifth anniversary of Beijing’s rejection of a call for universal suffrage in the semi-autonomous city, sparking the 79-day Umbrella Movement in 2014.

Hong Kong has been locked in three months of political crisis, with increasingly violent clashes between police and protesters that have prompted an escalating intimidation campaign from China.

Hong Kong Protesters Spy a New Enemy: Lampposts

HONG KONG—Among the recent targets of Hong Kong protesters were more than a dozen smart lampposts being tested by the government, equipped with Bluetooth connectivity, sensors and cameras that officials say collect weather and traffic data.

For hundreds of demonstrators, the lampposts stood as beacons for increasing government surveillance in Hong Kong, fueling fears that the poles hide technology to snoop on passersby, monitoring their movements and communications.

So last weekend masked demonstrators attacked the lampposts. They sawed down one, burned another and tore out the insides of more than a dozen others, disassembling them to look for evidence of gadgetry that could track smartphones or the chips that are now mandatory in people’s local identity cards.

Two hours later, the smell of singed electrical wire hung in the air over the four-lane road where some 20 lampposts were being tested, as police officers picked up hardware and put pieces into evidence bags.

“If they keep monitoring us, there’s no difference from China, and we’re not yet China,” said a 20-year-old student surnamed Chow, who joined the rally targeting the poles in the city’s industrial and residential neighborhood of Kwun Tong, on the Kowloon peninsula. No one uncovered any evidence that the lampposts were being used for surveillance.