Hong Kong police arrested a dozen people in various districts days before demonstrations planned for the weekend and a territory-wide strike proposed on Monday.
The arrests in Fo Tan in the New Territories occurred on another night when anti-extradition bill protesters gathered outside a police station before riot police arrived to disperse the crowd.
On Thursday night, seven men and one woman aged from 24 to 31 were arrested after a raid on an industrial building in Fo Tan. They were charged with possession of offensive weapons and possession of explosives without a license.
Andy Chan Ho-tin, convenor of the now-banned Hong Kong National Party, which advocates for Hong Kong to have independence, was among those arrested.
Sam Chan Yan, assistant district commander for crime in Shatin District, said police found four men who looked suspicious when they were pushing a cart with some bags and boxes on Au Pui Wan Street in Fo Tan. They intercepted the men and found two baseball bats, a bag of steel pellets and items commonly seen at protest sites such as helmets and protective pads, speakers and walkie-talkies. The four men were arrested for alleged possession of offensive weapons.
An officer then found one of the arrested men had a key and they used it to enter a unit at the Haribest Industrial Building. Officers confiscated material for making petrol bombs, bows and arrows, as well as essential oils containing suspected cannabis-derived substances in the unit. Two men and one woman were arrested.
The police commander admitted that they did not have a search warrant to enter the unit but said under Police Force Ordinance Section 50(6), it was lawful for officers to do so.
Soon after, more than 100 people gathered outside Shatin Police Station and began building barricades around entrances. On learning that the suspects were being held at Ma On Shan police station, the crowd moved there, where they also sprayed graffiti and built barricades. Riot police arrived to disperse the crowd, but no clashes happened.
On the same night, police arrested a man and two women aged from 23 to 47, said to be family members, in a public housing unit in Tin Shui Estate in Tin Shui Wai, the northern part of the New Territories. Officers had seized materials in the flat that could be used for making ‘smoke bombs’. The three were arrested for alleged possession of explosives without a license. Police said they are investigating reasons why the trio might make such bombs and any relationship with the recent demonstrations.
Then on Friday afternoon, police said they arrested three men over the past three days, for alleged incitement and doxxing – releasing private details – of police officers.
Superintendent Swalikh Mohammed from the cybersecurity and technology crime bureau said the suspects were aged from 26 to 39. Two men were arrested on suspicion of inciting public nuisance by posting messages online calling for people to commit illegal acts. Another man was arrested for allegedly attempted to borrow money using personal data of police officers and their relatives but failed.
The police operations and arrests came before anti-extradition bill demonstrations this weekend and a citywide strike on Monday.
On Saturday, a rally will be held at the Anchor Street Playground in Kowloon’s Mong Kok from 2.30pm.
The organizer originally planned to hold a march along Nathan Road and Dundas Street with it finishing at MacPherson Stadium in Nelson Street, but police had rejected this idea.
Police said they were concerned that organizers wouldn’t be able to control participants in the march and, due to the high volume of pedestrians and vehicles in the Mong Kok area, any violent incidents would put people’s safety in jeopardy.
The force also said any road closures would affect the operation of ambulances, fire stations and Kwong Wah Hospital. It was the third time in a week that police have refused to allow a march.
Last week, planned marches in Yuen Long and Sheung Wan were rejected by the police but protesters still went ahead regardless. Both events later turned violent with protesters and police escalating their use of force against each other.
On Sunday, there will be two marches, one in Tseung Kwan O in the New Territories, while the second will start in Kennedy Town and end at Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park in Sai Ying Pun on Hong Kong Island.
Next week, the city will start with a general strike along with rallies in seven districts across the city proposed by citizens online.
Over the past few days, a number of young people have been seen holding placards while standing on busy streets or at MTR stations calling for people to join the general strike on Monday.
One of them wrote: “I can go face the bullet for you, are you willing to join the strike to make your demands?” on the placard. A male young protester was seen kneeling down in front of an exit of Cheung Sha Wan and Tsuen Wan MTR Station, calling for people to join them.
An increasing number of Hong Kong people from various industries have pledged to take part. As of Friday afternoon, 2,000 social workers said they would join the strike on Monday, while 33 organizations will close down temporarily and another 39 will provide limited services.
Meanwhile, 17 environmental groups and Hong Kong Disneyland Cast Members Union, a dozen presenters at Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) plus their production staff have vowed to join the strike.
The Confederation of Trade Unions (CTU) said most of their 95 unions affiliated have voted to take part in the strike, including those from the transport sector, tertiary institutions, property management and groups representing security guards, CTU chairperson Carol Ng had said, Radio Television Hong Kong reported.
Ng said the strike, which is expected to be larger than one last month, so it would cause some disruption to the city, but she said it would be a good way for people to show their dissatisfaction with the government.
Meanwhile, local universities, financial institutions, banks and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong said they would either let their staff have flexible working hours, to work from home, or let them take annual leave for those who want to join the strike.
Wong Kowk, chairman of the pro-Beijing Federation of Trade Unions opposed the general strike, saying they cautioned that a strike might not be in Hong Kong’s best interest and people should realize that the economy is deteriorating.
He said retail and catering sectors had suffered due to weeks of unrest. He said the protests were also moving in the direction of calling for independence in Hong Kong.