Hong Kong, Nov 10 (ANI): The city police on Saturday arrested three pro-democracy lawmakers and filed charges against an equal number as protesters mourned the death of Chow Tsz-Lok, a 22-year-old who a day before had succumbed to injuries sustained after he fell from a parking garage during the ongoing clashes last week.
The arrests of the lawmakers, who were detained and charged with obstructing the local assembly during a rowdy meeting on May 11 over the extradition bill, could further stoke the protest movement, now in its 24th week, Al Jazeera reported.
Pro-democracy legislators said the clampdown was a calculated move after Chow's death to provoke more violence, which would then be used as an excuse to postpone or cancel November 24 district elections, which will be viewed as a barometer of public sentiments amid the unrest.
"We'll say no to their plans," legislator Tanya Chan was quoted as saying at a press conference.
"It is a de facto referendum for all Hong Kong voters to cast their vote and say no to police brutality and say no to our unjust system," Chan added.
She said the district elections will also send a crucial message to Beijing, which stands accused by protesters of interfering in the freedoms and rights promised to Hong Kong when the former British colony returned to Chinese control in 1997.
Further justifying the police action, Hong Kong's constitutional and mainland affairs secretary, Patrick Nip, said that the police had made the arrests based on their investigation and that they had nothing to do with the upcoming elections.
Since early June, Hong Kong has been in the throes of protests triggered by a bill that would have allowed the extradition of accused individuals to mainland China for trial under a judicial system with little guarantee of rights.
Although officials formally withdrew the bill two weeks ago, public anger continued by the refusal to address protesters' demands for an independent inquiry; amnesty for the nearly 600 people charged with offences stemming from the protests; a retraction of police claims that protesters are guilty of rioting, and universal suffrage to elect the full legislature and chief executive.
In recent weeks, calls for disbanding, or at least reorganising, the police force have grown. (ANI)