Several new bits of info out this morning about the HK situation. Looks like the heavy hand of the communist gov has now started to be applied. It will be interesting to see just how willing the protestors are to keep going.
Saturday’s planned protest in Hong Kong has been canceled after the arrest of three of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protest leaders on Friday; Joshua Wong, Andy Chan, and Agnes Chow.
CNBC’s Eunice Yoon notes that the arrests are being described on Chinese media as a crackdown on “the activists who create chaos in Hong Kong.”
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Update (0105ET): Saturday’s planned protest marking the fifth anniversary of the 2014 event which sparked the Umbrella Movement has been canceled, according to The Guardian.
Bonnie Leung from the Civil Human Rights Front said:
The appeal board has just rejected our appeal.
Our first principle is always to protect all the participants and make sure that no one could bear legal consequences because of participating in the protest that we organised.
However, because of the appeal board’s decision, we can see no way that we can keep this principle and also continue our march and protest. Therefore the civil human rights front has no option but to cancel the march tomorrow.
The Civil Human Rights Front would like to sincerely apologise to the public and hope you can understand what we explained and the difficulty we are facing. At the same time, we understand that the right to march and the right to protest is a human right and is very important to Hong HOng people. The CHRF will continue to apply for marches and apply for rallies.
“I think the police are using all kinds of excuses to arrest all kinds of people including us. They arrested Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow this morning so there is a real danger we could face the same consequences as well. We will try our best to preserve CHRF as a legal organiser. If we do otherwise, the police may use that as an excuse to give us even more trouble in the future,” she added.
It will be interesting to see who does come out, and what Hong Kong (and possibly Beijing) authorities do about it.
Update (2205ET): Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow has been arrested, according to her Demosisto party colleague Jeffrey Ngo.
Chow was arrested at her home in Tai Po on Friday morning.
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Update (2145ET): Just minutes after the arrest of Joshua Wong (as we detailed below), Andy Chan, the leader of the banned pro-independence Hong Kong National Party, has reportedly been detained whilst trying to board a flight to Japan.
A police spokesperson told HKFP that Chan was arrested on suspicion of rioting and assaulting a police officer. The Organized Crime And Triad Bureau are investigating.
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As we detailed earlier, pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong has been arrested ahead of this weekend’s planned protests throughout the city, according to the Hong Kong Free Press.
According to his colleague, Nathan Law, Wong was forced into a private vehicle at 7:30 a.m. on the street and escorted to the Wan Chai police headquarters. According to Law, Wong is being held on three yet-unknown charges, and is being represented by attorneys.
BREAKING: Our secretary-general @joshuawongcf was just arrested this morning at roughly 7:30, when he was walking to the South Horizons MTR station. He was forcefully pushed into a private minivan on the street in broad daylight. Our lawyers following the case now. — Demosistō 香港眾志 (@demosisto) August 30, 2019
The arrest of Wong – who was released from prison on June 17 after serving a five-week sentence related to the 2014 pro-democracy Umbrella Movement – comes hours after pro-independence leader Andy Chan was arrested at the airport.
Wong was the face of those 2014 protests which paralyzed parts of Hong Kong for 79 days.
The Hong Kong protests began in mid-June in response to a controversial extradition bill that would have allowed China to transport suspects to the mainland for trial in Communist Party-controlled courts, according to US News.
Much like the Yellow Vest movement in France, the initial grievance has evolved into a broad anti-government movement every weekend since it began. In early June, 1.3 million residents took to the streets.
While the protests have been largely peaceful, each weekend has been marked with clashes between a more violent subset of protesters and Hong Kong riot police – who have deployed tear gas, batons, water canons and other crowd-control measures.
Beijing’s patience, meanwhile, may be running out – as Chinese troops and armored trucks were seen entering Hong Kong in the “wee hours of Thursday” under the pretext of a “planned garrison rotation.”
The #HongKong Garrison of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army conducted the 22nd rotation of its members in the wee hours of Thursday since it began garrisoning Hong Kong in 1997. pic.twitter.com/MMqaZCCRov — People’s Daily, China (@PDChina) August 29, 2019
Needless to say, it will be interesting to see how this weekend’s protests go now that key organizers have been arrested and the threat of direct – and possibly deadly Chinese intervention looms.
Beijing’s role in directing the Hong Kong government throughout the extradition bill protests has been widely assumed, and following the arrest of three protest leaders Friday morning (local time), as well as the cancellation of Saturday’s march, the long-anticipated crackdown (complete with a ‘rotation’ of PLA forces) appears to have finally started.
But in case there was any doubt left in your mind, Reuters published a lengthy report Friday detailing the extent to which the Chinese Communist Party has directed the Hong Kong government’s response to the protests.
Hedge fund manager Kyle Bass noted on twitter that the troop “rotation” in Hong Kong looks more like an “invasion.”
Some call a one-way troop movement a “rotation”. I tend to call them “buildups” or simply an “invasion”. — Kyle Bass (@Jkylebass) August 29, 2019
Fortunately for them, the detained protest leaders, a group that included Joshua Wong, the student protest leader who gained notoriety during the 2014 Umbrella movement, have been released.
My arrest shows the government answers our request for a dialogue with batons, tear gas, rubber bullets and mass arrest. Our freedom of assembly and other fundamental rights are eroded. — Joshua Wong 黃之鋒 (@joshuawongcf) August 30, 2019
Earlier this summer, Lam submitted a report to Beijing that analyzed the protesters demands and issued a finding: permanently withdrawing the extradition bill could help placate the people and end the protest movement. But Beijing was, unsurprisingly, firmly opposed to this, or meeting any of the protesters other demands.
The Chinese central government rejected Lam’s proposal to withdraw the extradition bill and ordered her not to yield to any of the protesters’ other demands at that time, three individuals with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.
While it comes as no surprise that China would be unwilling to show any weakness in dealing with the HK protesters, the Reuters report for the first time offers “concrete evidence” of the degree to which the Communist Party is calling the shots in Hong Kong. Lam’s report was prepared for an Aug. 7 meeting in Shenzhen with the senior Chinese leadership intended to examine the feasibility of the protest movement’s demands, and how acceding to some of them might help restore order. Ultimately, the Chinese leadership decided not to take any action on the protesters’ demands, particularly when it comes to the withdrawal bill – which Lam has said is ‘dead’ but not completely ‘withdrawn’ – or investigations into excessive use of force by police. Instead, they ratcheted up their rhetoric about foreign interference.
Lam’s report had been submitted to the Central Co-ordination Group for Hong Kong and Macau Affairs, a group led by the Politburo Standing Committee.
“They said no” to all five demands, said the source. “The situation is far more complicated than most people realize.”
As Reuters pointed out, the extent of Beijing’s influence “strikes at the heart of Hong Kong’s ‘one country, two systems’ government, which promised the city a high degree of autonomy,” particularly at a time when the former British colony is facing its most serious political crisis since it was returned to China in 1997.
Senior pro-Beijing politician Ip Kwok-him, a member of Hong Kong’s ruling executive council, told Reuters that “if the central government won’t allow something, you can’t do it.”
A senior businessman who attended the Shenzhen meeting and has met with Lam recently said “her hands are tied” and Beijing wouldn’t let her withdraw the bill. At the meeting, Zhang Xiaoming, the head of the HKMAO, said in public remarks that if the unrest persisted, the central government would intervene. Officials have compared the protests to “terrorism.”
With the Oct 1, 70th anniversary of the CCP’s founding just one month away, that point appears to be drawing ever-nearer