Hong Kong pro-democracy lawmakers arrested as tensions soar – World

Hong Kong police said on Saturday they arrested three lawmakers in favor of democracy for a fight in parliament, deepening the city crisis one day after the death of a student that caused an increase in tensions.

The international financial center has been affected by five months of large and increasingly violent protests in favor of democracy, but Beijing has refused to give in to most of the movement's demands.

With the city preparing for a 24th consecutive weekend of demonstrations, police filed charges against three key pro-democratic lawmakers, while four other lawmakers said they had been ordered to attend a police station later on Saturday to be reserved.

They face up to one year in jail if they are convicted.

The charges relate to chaotic scenes that erupted within a legislative committee in May when lawmakers in favor of democracy tried to stop a controversial bill that would allow extraditions to authoritarian mainland China.

At that time, the city leader, Carrie Lam, was accelerating the bill through the legislature, a measure that ignited the unprecedented street protests in which millions marched.

"The protests that have been going on for five months are not over yet, but the government is already launching mass arrests of legislators for democracy in collaboration with the police," lawmakers said in a joint statement.

& # 39; Here waiting & # 39;

One of the legislators said he would refuse to surrender.

"If you accuse me of violating the laws in the Legislative Council, come and stop me. I will be here waiting," Lam Cheuk-ting told reporters at a joint press conference.

The Hong Kong legislature is almost democratic, with half of the seats popularly chosen and the rest largely chosen by pro-Beijing committees, which ensures that the chamber remains stacked with government loyalists.

Opposition to the government comes in the form of a small band of legislators in favor of democracy who win their seats in local elections.

The lack of totally free elections, and especially the fact that the city leader is appointed by a pro-Beijing committee, has fueled years of protests that have culminated in the latest riots.

Tinderbox's atmosphere intensified on Friday after 22-year-old Alex Chow died from a fall during recent clashes with police.

Although the precise chain of events that led to its downfall is unclear and in dispute, protesters have made the alleged police brutality one of the war cries of their movement and seized death.

Thousands of people attended candlelight vigils on Friday night while police fought battles of cats and mice with flashmob protesters that blocked roads, burned barricades and shattered subway station entrances in several neighborhoods.

In one incident, an officer fired a live warning shot when his unit clashed with protesters throwing projectiles.

Next local elections

The city will hold district council elections on November 24 with the pro-Beijing camp preparing for heavy defeats.

Since the pro-democratic protests began this summer, voter registration has skyrocketed and the pro-democratic camp is presenting candidates in each constituency for the first time.

But there are also concerns that elections may be suspended given the spiral of violence.

On Wednesday, one of the city's most pro-Beijing politicians was injured in a knife attack by a man pretending to be a supporter.

That assault came three days after a man who spoke Mandarin and shouted slogans in favor of Beijing stabbed at least three protesters in favor of democracy and bit his ear to a local district councilor.

Lawmakers in favor of democracy asked protesters not to give the government an excuse to cancel the elections due to violence.

"The election of the district council is a de facto referendum, in which all people in Hong Kong can respond to social problems, unfair government and police brutality caused by the extradition bill," said the legislator Tanya Chan.

But it seems likely that there will be more riots given that the protest movement is largely organized online by activists who favor confrontations with the police that are responding with increasingly harsh tactics as the month goes by.

Police have repeatedly denied any allegations of irregularities in relation to Chow's death.

Demonstrations and prayer vigils are expected on Saturdays and Sundays at night and a general strike has been called on Monday.

Source: https://www.dawn.com/news/1515841/hong-kong-pro-democracy-lawmakers-arrested-as-tensions-soar

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