Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong has been granted bail hours after being arrested and charged with inciting people to join a banned protest.
The 22-year-old activist was arrested earlier today alongside Agnes Chow, a core member of a pro-democracy group Wong founded.
Hong Kong, a former British colony, is grappling with its biggest political crisis since its handover to Beijing in 1997.
The news comes as the city’s police has denied the application for another mass rally planned on Saturday. But pockets of protesters vowed to demonstrate nonetheless – raising fears for more clashes.
It also comes after Andy Chan, the leader of a banned pro-independence political party, was arrested at the airport yesterday.
Hong Kong pro-democracy activists Agnes Chow (left) and Joshua Wong (right) walk out of the city’s Eastern Magistrates Courts after being granted bail. The pair were arrested earlier today
Wong (right) speak to the press after he and Chow were released on bail in Hong Kong
Wong and Chow have been charged with inciting people to join a banned protest in June
Wong is the face of Hong Kong’s push for full democracy during protests in 2014 that paralysed parts of the city for 79 days.
He is also the secretary-general of Demosistō, a pro-democracy organisation he founded in 2016. Chow, also 22, is a key member of the group.
Wong was arrested and pushed into a car today after being freed from prison just two months ago.
He was released in June after serving a five-week term for contempt of court.
Wong is also the secretary-general of Demosistō, a pro-democracy organisation he founded in 2016. He is seen outside Hong Kong’s Eastern Magistrates Courts after being released on bail
Wong told reporters: ‘We will continue our fight no matter how they arrest and prosecute us’
Wong is the face of Hong Kong’s push for full democracy during protests in 2014. He is pictured talking to a crowd after the court agreed to HK$10,000 cash bail
Both Wong and Chow were released on bail of HK$10,000 (£1,047) in cash and were given a curfew. The court has also allowed them to travel outside the city to attend speeches and meetings that have been arranged.
Wong vowed to carry on his battle for freedoms after leaving the court.
He told reporters: ‘We will continue our fight no matter how they arrest and prosecute us.’
Chow echoed his comments, saying: ‘We Hong Kong people won’t give up and won’t be scared … we will keep fighting for democracy.’
Factfile on Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow and Andy Chan who have been arrested ahead of the 5th anniversary of Beijing’s rejection of a call for Hong Kong universal suffrage
Chan co-founded the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party that was banned last year
Wong and Chow have been accused of ‘inciting others to take part in unauthorised assembly’ among other charges.
Ivan Lam, the chairman of Demosistō, was also said to be charged with the count today. Lam however reportedly left Hong Kong on Wednesday and did not appear at court.
Wong and Chow’s arrests came after Andy Chan, a founder of the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party that was banned last September, was arrested at Hong Kong airport yesterday.
Chan was detained on suspicion of participating in riots and attacking police, police said. He had been arrested earlier this month after police had found weapons and suspected petrol bombs in a raid.
China is apparently censoring the news of the pair being granted bail after briefly letting posts about the release being circulated on the internet.
Hu Xijin, the editor-in-chief of state-run Globla Times, said the court’s decision was too ‘lenient’.
In a post on Twitter-like Weibo, he wrote: ‘The fact that Hong Kong court allowed Joshua Wong and the others to be released on bail so quickly, in my opinion, reflects the weakness and defect of the law Hong Kong in dealing with riots.
‘The judge quickly granted them bail will send society signals that goes against stopping riots and halting chaos.’
It is widely believed that the central government is determined to quell the chaos before October 1 when the country will celebrate the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China.
Joshua Wong (pictured) was arrested on Friday and ‘pushed into a car’ ahead of another weekend of protests in Hong Kong
‘He was suddenly pushed into a private car on the street,’ Wong’s political party Demosisto, which advocates for greater democracy in Hong Kong, said on its official Twitter account.
‘He has now been escorted to the police headquarters in Wan Chai,’ it said, adding its lawyers were working on the case.
Agnes Chow, 22, another prominent activist was arrested alongside Wong and faced the same charge.
Unrest in Hong Kong escalated in mid-June over a now-suspended extradition bill that would have allowed people to be sent to mainland China for trial in Communist Party-controlled courts.
Wong had been released from jail after serving five weeks in jail for contempt of court (pictured Wong arrested for climbing on statue in Hong Kong in 2017)
It has since evolved into calls for greater democracy under the ‘one country, two systems’ formula, which guarantees freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland, including an independent judiciary.
China brought fresh troops into Hong Kong on Thursday, describing it as a routine rotation of the garrison.
Chinese state media stressed the troop movement was routine and Asian and Western diplomats watching the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) forces in the former British colony had been expecting it.
Unrest in Hong Kong escalated in mid-June over a now-suspended extradition bill that would have allowed people to be sent to mainland China for trial in Communist Party-controlled courts (pictured Joshua Wong surrounded by riot police after march in July 2019)
Chinese soldiers stationed in Hong Kong are not there merely for symbolic purposes and they will have ‘no reason to sit on their hands’ if the situation in the city worsens, an editorial in the China Daily newspaper said on Friday.
Police have refused permission for a pro-democracy march on Saturday, but organisers have appealed against the decision.
The protest would mark five years since Beijing ruled out universal suffrage for Hong Kong and comes as Hong Kong faces its first recession in a decade, with all its pillars of growth under stress.