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14 HK democracy activists held over 2019 protests (Ld)

Hong Kong, April 18 (IANS) Police in Hong Kong on Saturday arrested 14 pro-democracy activists for allegedly organiaing unauthorized protests last year, local media and political sources said.

The League of Social Democrats political party said on social media that its chairman Raphael Wong, vice-chairman Leung Kwok-hung and secretary-general Avery Ng were among those arrested, reports Efe news.

Former chairs of the Democratic Party, Martin Lee and Albert Ho, and the Labour Party’s Lee Cheuk-yan were also held, along with Civil Human Rights Front’s vice-convenor Figo Chan and others, according to national broadcaster RTHK.

While police have not confirmed the arrests, the Hong Kong Free Press said these people were arrested on suspicion of organizing demonstrations banned by the police on August 18 and October 1, 2019.

On August 18, 2019 a lawful gathering turned into a massive march that the CHRF claimed more than 1.7 million people took part in, but police estimated 128,000.

The protest on October 1, 2019 China’s national day, saw one person critically wounded by a bullet, dozens of people detained, and the use of tear gas and burning of barricades.

In recent months, Hong Kong authorities have stepped up their efforts to crack down on dissent, and since the protests began in March 2019, they have detained or fined numerous activists and prominent figures in the pro-democracy struggle.

The protests began in opposition to a now-axed extradition bill that lawyers and activists say could have allowed Beijing access to “fugitive” refugees in the former British colony.

The protests have mobilized hundreds of thousands of people since June and led to often violent clashes with the police, who protesters accuse of abusing their power to deter demonstrations.

The massive anti-government protests in Hong Kong appear to be at a standstill due to the COVID-19 epidemic, but supporters of the pro-democracy movement have warned that, when the health crisis ends, they could return to the streets to demonstrate again.




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