A Hong Kong "localist" group blamed by China for inciting the Mong Kok riots earlier this month vowed on Monday to go ahead with all of its planned activities, including plans to fight a forthcoming by-election for the city's legislature, despite the arrest of its founder.
Hong Kong Indigenous founder and convenor Ray Wong, 22, was arrested on Sunday by police, who also searched his home in Tin Shui Wai, the group confirmed on Monday.
Provisional spokeswoman Amber Wai said the group would continue its activities in spite of the seizure of more than H.K. $500,000 (U.S. $64,300) in funds at Wong's apartment.
"We won't be stopping any of our activities," Wai told RFA. "Everything will go ahead."
Wong was arrested on suspicion of incitement to violence, after chemicals that could be used to make explosives were found inside a flat, local media reported.
Wong had previously gone incommunicado after posting an online message on Feb. 11 which said it was "better to die with honor than survive in disgrace."
Police seized H.K.$530,000 (U.S. $68,200) in case, medications, an extendable baton and an electromagnetic gun, as well as protective gear for war games like paintballing, and a Guy Fawkes mask resembling those used by supporters of the hacker group Anonymous.
Bomb disposal experts were also called to take part in the raid, the South China Morning Post reported.
Chinese and Hong Kong officials have described the Feb. 8 "fishball revolution," which was sparked by confrontations between unlicensed food vendors and police over Chinese New Year, as the work of "radical separatists."
‘Force in resistance’
Wong took part in, but later rejected the 2014 pro-democracy Occupy movement, which waged a peaceful 79-day civil disobedience campaign for fully democratic elections.
He founded Hong Kong Indigenous to campaign for "separation" between Hong Kong and mainland China, and hasn't ruled out the use of "force in resistance," according to local media reports.
As Wong was arrested, student leaders said Hong Kong's grassroots localist movement is inevitable in a city where many feel Beijing has reneged on its promise of "a high degree of autonomy" after the 1997 handover.
Althea Suen, newly elected leader of the University of Hong Kong Student Union, told government broadcaster RTHK that the younger generation in the city doesn't trust Beijing and feels that their traditional freedoms are under threat.
"The localism ... is inevitable, because this generation has experienced many protests, and also many [forms of] suppression from our government, and the infringement of the one country, two systems [principle]," Suen said.
"The younger generation ... don't [trust] the Chinese Communist Party, and we want keep our traditions, culture and our core values."
Suen said that even independence should be on the table as an option for the future of Hong Kong, and warned that further unrest is likely as students begin protests over a perceived pro-Beijing bias in the running of the city's universities.
"Just be prepared, because we can see that there is more and more suppression from the university, from the university council, or even from the government," Suen said. "Actually, it's reasonable for students to ... react to those suppressions."
Ernie Chow, head of the student union at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said the point of localism is to emphasize Hong Kong's unique identity as distinct from mainland China.
"The main point of localism is I think that Hong Kong is not China," Chow said. "The core of localism is to protect Hong Kong, to protect Hongkongers' values, and to protect our culture. I think that's very crucial in the [minds] of youngsters."
Chow also said he wouldn't rule out the use of violent resistance.
"Our stance is with the students, so if the students think that this way of protest is necessary and effective, we don't think we should be against it," he said.
Scuffles and protests
Meanwhile, a meeting of the Lingnan University's governing council was canceled on Monday amid scuffles and angry protests from students, who blocked access to some council members.
The students were calling on the council to change a regulation stipulating that Hong Kong's chief executive, currently Leung Chun-ying, automatically holds the post of university chancellor, something the council has already refused to do.
Hong Kong political commentator Camoes Tam said Wong's arrest is likely directly connected to his advocacy of "violent resistance."
"The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) government is still a region under the People's Republic of China, and under the control of the Chinese Communist Party," Tam said.
"So, of course, they are going to blame him for escalating [the Mong Kok riots], inciting violence and separatism," he said. "I think he is reaping what he sowed ... It's natural that the police will go after him."
"If he's prepared for violent resistance, then he should also be prepared to do time in jail," he said.
Meanwhile, pro-Beijing author and Lingnan University Chinese lecturer Chen Yun said all eyes are now on a forthcoming by-election in New Territories East.
"It all depends on public opinion," Chen said. "We will have to see if Edward Leung, who is a pan-democrat and a member of Hong Kong Indigenous ... does well in the New Terrorities by-election."
"If he gets a very big share of the vote, then that will show us that people don't care about these [acts of violence] when it comes to fighting for local interests," he said.
The by-election will be held on Feb. 28 following the resignation of incumbent Legislative Council (LegCo) member Ronny Tong last year.
Reported by Dai Weisen and Wen Yuqing for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Yang Fan for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.