Hong Kong police have made a string of high-profile arrests in recent days, including of former 2014 protest leader Joshua Wong, who hit out at the move as an attempt to "manipulate" the city's residents, who have risen up to oppose plans to allow extradition to mainland China since June.
Wong, 22, was taken away on Friday as he approached South Horizons MTR station by four men dressed in plain clothes who didn't show police identification, and who forced him to get into a private vehicle with no explanation.
He was taken to police headquarters in Wanchai district.
Agnes Chow, a fellow member of the pro-democracy Demosisto party whose candidacy for legislative elections was rejected by the government in 2018 for political reasons, was also arrested soon after at her home in Tai Po.
She was also taken to Wanchai.
Wong was arrested on suspicion of "organizing, taking part and inciting others to join an unauthorized assembly on June 21," when protesters surrounded police headquarters in Wanchai, police said in a statement.
Chow, also 22, was arrested on suspicion of "taking part and inciting others to join an unauthorized assembly," police said.
Both were released on bail.
Police had earlier arrested Andy Chan, 29, who headed the banned Hong Kong National Party, as he planned to board a flight at Hong Kong International Airport.
Attempt to scare
Demosisto vice-chairman Isaac Cheng said the government is trying to scare people away from supporting the anti-extradition protests that have gripped Hong Kong since early June.
"The government is spreading white terror in the whole atmosphere of Hong Kong and it is frightening Hong Kong people not to come out again to fight for the rights they deserve," Cheng told government broadcaster RTHK.
"So we urge Hong Kong people to come out in every circumstance, for every assembly and protest, to make Hong Kong become Hong Kong again."
On his release, Wong said the arrests were clearly intended as a warning shot from the ruling Chinese Communist Party in Beijing, and said it was ridiculous to target the leaders of a past pro-democracy movement.
"We are furious about large-scale arrest[s] on the day before 31 August," he said via his Twitter account. "It is completely ridiculous that the police target specific prominent figures of social movement in the past ... framing them as the leaders of the anti-extradition bill protests," he said. "We once again reiterate that Demosisto has never taken up any leading role during the movement."
"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," Wong wrote.
Earlier, Wong told journalists: "We are strongly aware of how President Xi Jinping and the Beijing government are the ones who back and endorse the Hong Kong police to make ... mass arrests and prosecutions."
"It just shows that Beijing continues to manipulate Hong Kong people's freedom, and we shall never surrender," he said.
Unlikely to succeed
Chow said the government's approach is unlikely to succeed.
"It's very clear that the government of Hong Kong is trying to make the people of Hong Kong afraid of taking part in the anti-extradition movement, or in any future democracy movement, through a reign of white terror and fear," she told reporters after being released on bail.
"White terror" is typically used in Chinese to refer to the decades of political arrests, incarcerations, and other forms of intimidation under one-party rule and martial law by the nationalist Kuomintang in Taiwan before the country began its transition to full democracy in the 1990s.
Wong also drew a contemporary link with democratic Taiwan, warning the country, which has never been ruled by the Chinese Communist Party, never to give in to Beijing's insistence on "unification" under the "one country, two systems" concept used in Hong Kong.
"We hope that more people in Taiwan will continue to pay attention to what is happening in Hong Kong, where one country, two systems is now more like one country, one-and-a-half systems," he said.
Lin Fei-fan, a former student leader of the 2014 Sunflower Movement that occupied Taiwan's parliament and executive headquarters in protest over plans for closer ties with China, said the whole world is concerned about peace and stability in Hong Kong.
"If Beijing takes action, this will harm the development of its international relations, as well as doing nothing to resolve divisions [in Hong Kong]," Lin said.
"We encourage a dialogue between the authorities in Hong Kong and Beijing and the general public as a way of ending the crackdown and enabling the people of Hong Kong to regain trust in their government," he said, warning that political interference in Hong Kong's supposedly independent judiciary would lose China international support.
Protest organizers attacked
The string of arrests in Hong Kong came as two prominent protest organizers were attacked by unidentified men.
Jimmy Sham, convenor of the Civil Human Rights Front that has organized many mass protest marches, was set upon by two masked men armed with a baseball bat and a metal rod, he said. Sham was unhurt, but a friend suffered arm injuries from the baseball bat.
Meanwhile Max Chung, who applied for permission to hold an anti-triad protest in Yuen Long in the wake of attacks on train passengers by triad-linked men in white shirts, was attacked by a group of men on Thursday afternoon while giving an interview to a journalist in Tai Po.
Chung later posted photos online of injuries to his back after he curled up into a ball to protect his head. The journalist from Truth Media was also injured in the attack.
Reported by Wen Yuqing, Tam Siu-yin and Chung Kuang-cheng for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Gao Feng for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.