HONG KONG (AP) — Five people from a Hong Kong activist group that organized a giant pro-democracy rally this week were arrested Friday on charges of blocking traffic, obstructing police and violating traffic safety.
The group, the Civil Human Rights Front, complained that the charges were politically motivated.
Tuesday’s rally, an unusually large display of anger at Beijing, was prompted by a report issued by China’s government that said it has ultimate power over Hong Kong despite a promise of autonomy for the territory through 2047. Police said about 100,000 people joined at its peak, while organizers put the total at 510,000.
Police said the two men and three women are accused of obstructing traffic by driving slowly and encouraging protesters to sit in the street, obstructing police and disobeying instructions. They will be detained while they are being investigated, police said in a statement.
The organizing group criticized the arrests as “obvious political pressure.”
“The government did not respond to the 510,000 people who took to the streets of Hong Kong and instead made political arrests of organizers,” it said in a statement.
July 1, a public holiday marking the anniversary of the 1997 return of Hong Kong from Britain to Chinese sovereignty, has become an annual day of protest in the city for broader political rights.
Tuesday’s rally came days after nearly 800,000 residents voted in an informal referendum aimed at bolstering support for full democracy. Beijing denounced the referendum.
The Communist mainland government has promised to allow the people of Hong Kong to vote for the city’s leader by 2017. However, it has rejected calls to allow the public to nominate candidates, insisting instead that they be vetted by a Beijing-friendly committee like the one that has selected all leaders since the 1997 handover.
On the mainland, comments about the rally were erased from social media. Few outlets in the state-controlled media reported on the rally, and the Global Times, a newspaper published by the main Communist Party newspaper People’s Daily, said it was “not in line with Hong Kong’s interests.”
Those arrested Friday were Johnson Yeung Ching-yin, an organizer of the rally; Daisy Chan Sin-ying, a member of the group, and Ivy Chan Siu-ping, who acted as master of ceremonies, according to the group’s deputy head, Icarus Wong Ho-yin. The others were Kitty Hung Hiu-han, a staff member of the group, and driver Shun Wing-kan.
Police also arrested 511 people early Wednesday on charges of illegal assembly and obstructing police after two student groups held an overnight sit-in following the pro-democracy rally. Most were released with a warning, while 25 — including three members of the Hong Kong legislature — were released on bail and told to report back later.
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