Hong Kong police have arrested prominent activists, Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow, reports Hong Kong Free Press. Also, leader of the banned pro-independence Hong Kong National Party, Andy Chan, was arrested on the evening of August 29th while boarding a flight to Japan.
It is not the first time that Joshua Wong has been arrested for protesting for democracy in Hong Kong. Some that don’t follow Chinese politics may not know about the “Occupy Movement” or “Umbrella Movement,” a series of protests that took place in fall and winter of 2014. Wong was arrested and sentenced to six to eight months imprisonment for his activities during those protests. This long Wikipedia article has an extensive discussion of the events of the Occupy Movement (we know that Wikipedia is not always reliable, but the article goes into a lot of detail on what happened, so it is valuable, regardless).
So, protests for democracy in Hong Kong are not new, and the Chinese media’s feigned surprise at the current protests is disingenuous and ridiculous.
Yesterday, we posted an article on the rotation of the PLA contingent in Hong Kong, wondering if Beijing was rotating in forces prepared to deal harshly with the protesters – and hoping it was not. These arrests may be another precursor to that. Beijing would like to deprive the protest movement of leaders (they likely cannot comprehend that such a movement could be essentially leaderless), and then scatter the remaining protesters, thinking that without the leadership, the protest movement will dissolve – especially if it is under pressure by Hong Kong police and PLA elements using tough (read, violent) tactics.
Today, Beijing also “reminded” the Hong Kong people that the People’s Armed Police force is still just across the border:
And CCTV posted another article on the rotation of the PLA contingent in Hong Kong.
This post is more concerning than the one yesterday. It is much more militaristic, and the phrase in the tweet “perform its defense duty in Hong Kong in accordance with the law” is threatening.
The Hong Kong Free Press additionally reported that a planned peaceful march and rally to be held Saturday was banned by the Hong Kong police. It seems almost certain that there will be protests, marches, and rallies, despite the ban – which will then be (technically correctly) deemed illegal by the Hong Kong authorities.
This weekend the U.S. is celebrating its Labor Day holiday, the traditional end of summer, and preparing for kids to start the new school year. A major hurricane is aimed for Florida. News coverage of international events is likely to be less than usual. (see this comment at Small Dead Animals blog).
Is Beijing trying to engineer a violent confrontation with the protesters, using “illegal” protests as a pretext over this Labor Day weekend, when the U.S. is distracted? It would not surprise us at all. If news is blacked out and internet access to Hong Kong is shut down or restricted, be very, very concerned.