Hong Kong police arrest activist Joshua Wong for wearing a mask as repression deepens
By Shibani Mahtani,
Tyrone Siu Reuters
HONG KONG — Police arrested Joshua Wong and another prominent pro-democracy activist on Thursday for participating in a rally in October, slapping Wong with the additional charge of violating a ban on masks imposed last year to deter street protests.
The latest arrest adds to the litany of charges Wong already faces in connection with his activism and comes amid a deepening crackdown against prominent pro-democracy figures. Among them are Agnes Chow and Nathan Law, who rose to prominence alongside Joshua Wong for their role in 2014 pro-democracy Umbrella Movement.
Agnes Chow was arrested under a new national security law in August, while Law has been forced to flee the city because of the same law. Joshua Wong was released Thursday several hours after his arrest.
Those who have studied the new national security law say its intention is to completely remake Hong Kong, eroding its long-standing freedoms of the press, speech and assembly.
On Thursday, Wong was arrested on a routine visit to a police station, where he must report twice weekly under bail terms relating to his previous charges, he said. Koo Sze-yiu, a longtime activist, was also arrested. Police officers, who did not name the men, confirmed that two male suspects ages 23 and 74 were arrested on suspicion of participating in an unauthorized assembly, related to a march on Oct. 5.
The 23-year-old, police added, is also suspected of “violating the anti-mask law” at that same march.
“This is the third case I’ve had to face already since I left prison last June,” Wong said in a news conference after his release Thursday afternoon. “But no matter what happens, I will still continue to resist.”
He added that “they can prosecute us, they can arrest us, they can lock us up in prison, but they can’t censor our commitment.”
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam tried to ban face coverings at public gatherings last year, a move she hoped would quell unrest on the streets. Instead, it added fuel to the pro-democracy movement and charges that she was abusing her power. A court later ruled that the mask ban, which was enacted using colonial-era emergency powers, was partly unconstitutional.
Since the pandemic, Hong Kong has enacted laws mandating that residents wear masks in all public places to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Wong was released from jail in June 2019, as anti-government protests were once again swelling in the city. Unlike the 2014 protests, the current movement is without a leader or even a core nucleus of organizers. Although Wong has been involved in pro-democracy activism, he is not considered a leader of the current round of protests that began in June last year.
Beijing, however, continues to denounce the young activist, and those around him have long described him as a key target of the new national security law, which criminalizes broadly worded infractions such as “foreign collusion,” “terrorism” and “secession.”
Separately, Hong Kong police this week took aim at news outlets, saying they will stop recognizing media credentials issued to journalists by local news organizations. The move reverses a long-standing policy that has allowed freelancers, photographers, and other independent and online-only media outlets to work without interference.
Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the last name of Agnes Chow.