Seven prominent Hong Kong opposition activists were arrested on Sunday on charges related to obstructing a legislative council meeting in May, the latest move by authorities amid a broader crackdown on anti-government forces.
The arrests come just four months after Beijing imposed a contentious national security law on the city that has seen some activists flee for safe havens overseas out of fear they could be targeted and face lengthy jail sentences.
The arrests, which took place early in the morning, did not appear to be linked to the security law, which punishes what Beijing broadly defines as secession, sedition, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in jail.
Opposition politicians Wu Chi Wai, Andrew Wan, Helena Wong, Kwok Wing Kin, Eddie Chu, Raymond Chan and Fernando Cheung announced their arrests on their individual Facebook pages.
Police confirmed the arrests at a press briefing. The seven were later released on bail and several of them appeared at a media briefing in the evening.
Lawmaker Wu Chi Wai, who is chairman of the Democratic Party, said the charges were “absurd” and were intended to send a “chilling effect to make people more cautious with their words and actions”.
Around 30 people have been charged under the legislation since it was imposed on 30 June, according to police records.
Critics of the legislation say it represents the latest move by Beijing to tighten its grip over the former British colony and erode its judicial independence.
Hong Kong police cordon off passenger for reading pro-democracy newspaper on metro
Police in Hong Kong surrounded a teenaged protester and cordoned him off from commuters as he sat reading pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily at a sparsely populated Metro stop on Wednesday.
Footage shared by Apple Daily appeared to show at least nine police officers and multiple station officials watching over the high-school student, who was silently leafing through the tabloid on a bench.
A line of police tape was put up around the boy, known as David, who the newspaper reports is an anti-government campaigner, with a history of staging one-man demonstrations.
It was not immediately clear whether David was reading Apple Daily as part of an explicit or planned protest.
The newspaper’s editorial position is critical of the Chinese government and sympathetic with pro-democracy campaigners. Hong Kong police arrested its founder, entrepreneur Jimmy Lai, in August on charges of violating the territory’s recent national security law.
The same legislation, which has received international criticism for criminalising activism and giving China an excessive grip over Hong Kong, was the trigger of the latest wave of unrest.
Prince Edward station in Kowloon, where the newspaper indecent took place, has often become a flashpoint for confrontations between police and protesters.
Authorities were filmed beating passengers and firing pepper spray inside train carriages at the station last August in an allegedly indiscriminate attack on people returning home from a rally.