[UPDATE - Monday, March 27, 5.48pm]
Joshua Wong Chi-fung, the student leader of Demosisto, said of the new prosecutions: “It is not appropriate to prosecute activists 24 hours after an election. The government is deliberately giving Hong Kong activist groups a hard time, and I think they will continue to persecute these groups over the next five years. This is a challenging time, but we will continue to fight.”
Nathan Law, along with other democratic lawmakers will rally outside Police Headquarters at 7.30pm to support those arrested.
Police on Monday called leaders of 2014’s pro-democracy Occupy protests, and at least six other politicians and activists, to tell them they will be prosecuted.
The news came less than an hour after outgoing chief executive Leung Chun-ying’s first meeting with chief executive-elect Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who won the city’s leadership election on Sunday.
During the meeting, Lam said, Leung “responded positively” to her election pledge to unify a divided city.
Carrie Lam is HK's new chief executive-elect, and she will prioritise housing and upholding the city's values
Later, on the prosecutions, Lam said she did not know if the timing of the calls so soon after her election had been deliberate, and said bridging political divides “should not compromise rule of law”.
Officers called three chief organisers of the 79-day sit-ins, Occupy Central co-founders Benny Tai Yiu-ting, Reverend Chu Yiu-ming and Dr Chan Kin-man.
League of Social Democrats activist Raphael Wong Ho-ming and former legislator Lee Wing-tat were also called.
So were legislators Tanya Chan and Shiu Ka-chun, and at least two student leaders, Eason Chung and Tommy Cheung.
They are required to turn up at police headquarters in Wan Chai, where they are expected to face arrest and charge.
In a statement, pro-democracy group Demosisto highlighted the timing of the calls, noting that they came “immediately after Carrie Lam’s victory”.
Lam had been dubbed “CY 2.0” – a reference to the current chief executive’s initials – as people feared she would continue Leung’s hardline approach to social dissent.
In 2014, protesters took part in an unprecedented sit-in to block major thoroughfares in three of the city’s major districts – Admiralty, Mong Kok and Causeway Bay – to voice discontent at a restrictive election framework Beijing proposed for Hong Kong on August 31 that year.
Chan Kin-man confirmed police called him on Monday morning and told him he faced a public nuisance charge. He said he will go to court on Thursday.
Chan said he, Chu and Tai had expected the prosecution, but also noted the timing.
“The prosecution has come a day after the CE election. Obviously the government didn’t want to affect the election and the campaigning,” Chan, a sociology professor, said.
“How is the mending of social divide possible when you make this move a day after the new leader is elected? It surely is a bad start for her,” he said.
But he said he did not know whether Lam was involved in the decision to prosecute, when she was still chief secretary. Lam quit that job in January, to run for the top job.
In response to the news, Lam said she had “no knowledge” of whether the action was delayed to prevent damage to her campaign.
“This is the action of the current administration,” she said.
She added: “Prosecution actions are undertaken independently by the Department of Justice under the Basic Law.
“[While] I want to unite society and bridge the divide that had been causing us concern, any such action should not compromise the rule of law in Hong Kong.”
Tai confirmed he was also called on Monday morning. He said he was seeking legal advice.
Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung told the Legislative Council last month that police had directed 287 cases to his department for legal advice by the end of last August, including for those who might have led the movement. He said his department had answered all the requests by the end of last year.