Pro-democracy group Demosisto called for Hongkongers to take to the streets on July 1 after 26 activists were arrested for besieging the Golden Bauhinia statue in protest of the mainland government, hours ahead of President Xi Jinping’s arrival in Hong Kong.
On Wednesday evening, for the second time in three days, some 20 protesters from Demosisto, People Power and the League of Social Democrats climbed on the Golden Bauhinia statue – a gift from Beijing to mark the handover of Hong Kong from Britain to China – in Wan Chai, covering it in black cloth.
Senior police superintendent Tse Kwok-wai said police had arrested 26 protesters, including 20 men and six women, aged 19 to 61, who are all still being detained.
Derek Lam Shun-hin, Demosisto’s spokesperson, said that among those arrested in the early hours of Thursday morning for public nuisance during the "peaceful" protest were lawmaker Nathan Law Kwun-chung and secretary-general Joshua Wong Chi-fung. He added there was no information about when the protesters would be released.
Lam called on Hongkongers to take to the streets on Saturday durign the handover anniversary celebrations, to demonstrate the right to democracy.
These calls were echoed by League of Social Democrats on Thursday morning, who used its Facebook page to urge supporters to gather outside the North Point station at 10am.
The group also accused the police of delaying procedures in order to avoid releasing those arrested, as officers had yet to take statements from some of protesters.
Writing on Facebook at 8.49am, the league’s chairman Avery Ng Man-yuen, who was arrested, said he was told that officers would only take statements from them at 10am.
“It seems that the police is delaying deliberately, so that Xi Jinping can smoothly arrive at the airport. They are preventing us from continuing to protest,” Ng wrote.
The police’s spokesman could not be reached for comment on Thursday, but on Wednesday, Tse denied there had been a security breach during the protest.
“The area [at the time] was still open to the public,” he said, adding that the force respected the public’s right to express their views. But he criticised the protesters for threatening public order and obstructing others.
Police quickly sealed off the entire area around the square and began arresting protesters by 8.25pm. At 9pm, when six protesters still remained, officers called in firefighters, who used a ladder to bring them down. By 9.30pm, the last activist, Wong Ho-ming of the League of Social Democrats, had surrendered.
The demonstartion came as 20 pan-democratic lawmakers signed a petition urging Xi to uphold “one country, two systems” – the framework that safeguards Hong Kong’s rights and freedoms – and to relaunch the city’s stalled political reform.
News of Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo being released from prison on medical parole for late-stage liver cancer on Monday had intensified pro-democracy sentiments ahead of the visit by Xi, who arrives on Thursday morning to mark the 20th anniversary of the city’s return to Chinese sovereignty.
The pan-democratic lawmakers said they hoped to hand the petition to Xi at a banquet on Friday.
“We agree that Hong Kong is an inalienable part of China,” they wrote. “However ... the central government and its liaison office have increasingly emphasised ‘one country’ but derogated ‘two systems’, and even interfered with Hong Kong’s internal affairs in multiple sectors.”
They urged Xi to restart the political reform process and respect Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, which Beijing had promised.
In addition to the joint petition, the Democratic Party and Civic Party will hand in their own statements, calling for Xi to release Liu and all other political prisoners.