Tyrone Siu Reuters
HONG KONG — Police briefly arrested Joshua Wong and another prominent pro-democracy activist on Thursday for participating in a rally last October, slapping Wong with the additional charge of violating a ban on masks imposed last year to deter street protests.
The latest arrest adds to the litany of charges Wong already faces in connection with his activism, and comes amid a deepening crackdown against prominent pro-democracy figures including Agnes Wong and Nathan Law, who rose to prominence alongside Wong for their role in 2014 pro-democracy Umbrella Movement.
Agnes Wong was arrested under the new national security law in August, while Law has been forced to flee the city over the same law.
Those who have studied the new national security law say its intention is to completely remake Hong Kong, eroding its long-standing freedoms including the freedom of the press, freedom of speech and the freedom of assembly.
On Thursday, Wong was arrested on a routine visit to the police station, where he must report twice weekly under bail terms relating to his previous charges, he said. Koo Sze-yiu, a veteran activist, was also arrested. Police, who did not name the men, confirmed that two male suspects aged 23 and 74 were arrested on suspicion of participating in an unauthorized assembly, related to a march on Oct. 5 last year.
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The 23 year-old, police added, is also suspected of “violating the anti-mask law” at that same march. Wong was released several hours later.
“This is the third case I’ve had to face already since I left prison last June,” Wong said in a news conference after his release Thursday afternoon. “But no matter what happens, I will still continue to resist.”
He added that “they can prosecute us, they can arrest us, they can lock us up in prison, but they can’t censor our commitment.”
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam tried to ban face coverings at public gatherings last year, a move she hoped would quell unrest on the streets but instead added fuel to the pro-democracy movement and charges that she was abusing her power. A court later ruled that the mask ban, which was enacted using colonial-era emergency powers, was partially unconstitutional.
Since the pandemic, Hong Kong has enacted laws mandating residents wear masks in all public places to curb the spread of coronavirus.
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Wong was released from jail last June, as anti-government protests were once again swelling in the city. Unlike the 2014 protests, the current movement is without a leader or even a core nucleus of organizers. While Wong has been actively involved in pro-democracy activism, he cannot be considered a leader of the current round of protests that began in June 2019.
Beijing, however, continues to demonize the young activist, and those around him have long described him as a key target of the new national security law which criminalizes broadly-worded infractions like “foreign collusion,” “terrorism” and “secession.”
Separately, Hong Kong police this week took aim at the press, saying they will stop recognizing media credentials issued to journalists by local press organizations, a long-standing policy that has allowed freelancers, photographers and other independent and online-only media outlets to do their jobs without interference.
China is arresting and targeting Hong Kong dissidents. I could be next.
Hong Kongers ignore mask ban, march in huge numbers
Prominent Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong released from jail