Arrests strengthen pro-democracy call in Hong Kong  

Rights groups see Chinese determination to crush the pro-democracy movement in the move
Arrests strengthen pro-democracy call in Hong Kong  

Police detain an injured man after police dispersed a crowd gathered for the 'universal siege on communists' rally at Chater Garden in Hong Kong on Jan. 19. Three pro-democracy activists were arrested on Feb. 28 on charges of participating in illegal gatherings. (Photo: Philip Fong/AFP)

Civil rights defenders including a church group in Hong Kong have reiterated their determination to work for democracy after police arrested three pro-democracy activists.

Hong Kong police on Feb. 28 arrested democracy activists Lee Cheuk-yan and Yeung Sum along with media tycoon Jimmy Lai on charges of participating in illegal gatherings.

“Since June, the police have indiscriminately arrested more than 7,000 people and repeatedly violated people’s right to freedom of procession and assembly,” Hong Kong’s Civil Human Rights Front said in a statement.

The Front, which includes the Justice and Peace Commission of Hong Kong Diocese, said it was “very angry at the police’s indiscriminate arrests and strongly condemned it.”

All three arrested were, however, released on bail later in the day.

Lai, a 71-year-old millionaire, is believed to be a significant funder of the pro-democracy protests that began in June 2019.

Lee, 63, is the vice-chairman of the Labour Party, while 72-year-old Yeung Sum is a former chairman of the Democracy Party. Both men have actively participated in the protests. 

The protests have subsided because of the Covid-19 virus epidemic that began in mainland China and spread to Hong Kong, the former British colony now governed by Beijing.

Protests began in opposition to an extradition bill that would have allowed people to be sent to China for trial in Communist Party-controlled courts. It has since been suspended but protests continue demanding wider democratic reforms and an investigation into alleged police brutality.

“Police continue to indiscriminately arrest” people, the Front said in the statement.

People are dissatisfied with suppression of the legitimate right to march and hold peaceful rallies, it said.

The arrests reveal the police’s determination to crush people’s freedom to protest against police brutality and their scant regard for the fundamental political rights of people, it said.

"
The police are more than violent … the epidemic prevention funds are used to suppress public opinion, the taxpayers’ money is used to buy bullets to hit citizens," it said

The police move will only make Hong Kong people "more united, persistent and courageous," the Front said, asking people not to forget all arrested persons and their counterparts in prison and to insist on true universal suffrage.

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