A member of a Hong Kong student activist group was arrested at the city’s airport on Wednesday morning before boarding a flight to Taiwan because of suspected involvement in violent clashes between police and protesters on the Lunar New Year, the group said in a statement.
Scholarism said member Derek Lam Shun-hin, 22, spent only four hours on Monday night in the city’s gritty, working-class district of Mong Kok where the protests occurred, and did not take part in any violent clashes or attacks on police officers.
The clashes broke out when unlicensed food vendors took exception to police attempts to clear their stalls, set up to attract the crowds of people welcoming the Year of the Monkey on the neon-lit streets of Kowloon. Some activists joined in the battle against police, and some journalists covering the event were attacked.
The group also said policemen tried to search Lam’s home without a court warrant, but they stopped when his lawyer arrived.
“We are deeply resentful of the police’s indiscriminate arrest of the student as means of assaulting the people’s right to assembly and freedom of expression,” the group’s statement said.
Scholarism also urged authorities to release Lam immediately.
Police, who now have detained at least 64 people suspected of being involved in the clashes, said they expect more arrests in the days to come, according to Hong Kong media sources.
“Lam Shun-hin did not throw things at the police, set fires, challenge the police, or instigate physical clashes with them,” said Joshua Wong, leader of Scholarism. “So, I do not understand why the police have arrested this kind of person who just participated in the nightlife and did not have any clashes with them.”
“Actually, I was with him at around 2 a.m. [on Feb. 9], and we left together,” he said.
Li Chung Chak, another member of the group, told RFA’s Cantonese Service that the members were shocked when they learned of Lam’s arrest.
“We are shocked and worried,” he said. “Why would the police arrest him without any reason? I do not know of any other members who were at the [clash] scene that night. We can do nothing at the moment and have handed this over to a lawyer.”
The attacks, which took place in the same streets as the most violent clashes of the Occupy Central pro-democracy movement of 2014, were described as a “riot” on the part of “violent radicals” by Hong Kong officials.
Reported by Lin Jing RFA’s Cantonese Service. Translated by Shiny Li. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.