Hong Kong: Student activists arrested as police step up repression

For a new, enlarged school strike to fightback against the crackdown on student pro-democracy protests

Dikang, Socialist Action (CWI in Hong Kong)

Hong Kong’s week-long student strike in support of a democratic election system reached a climax on Friday night, 26 September, as thousands of democracy protesters gathered again outside the Government Headquarters in Tamar. Around 200 students and other protesters managed to breach the police cordon and climb into Civic Square, a previously public protest zone that was sealed behind high security fences two months ago. This was part of the systematic preparations being made by the government to quell pro-democracy protests and especially to overcome and neutralise the planned (but repeatedly delayed) Occupy Central protest.

Pepper spray was widely used against peaceful protesters in Tamar.
Pepper spray was widely used against peaceful protesters in Tamar.

The mostly student protesters in Civic Square held out overnight, appealing for more people to come out to join the crowds supporting them from overhead bridges and walkways. Riot police used pepper spray and made dozens of arrests, including the leader of student activist group Scholarism, Joshua Wong. By mid-afternoon on Saturday 27 September, the final protesters were removed by police, with over 70 arrests made during the 2-day protest. Among those arrested was radical legislator ‘Longhair’ Leung Kwok-hung of the League of Social Democrats. Wong, 17-years-old, was refused bail and faces three charges including the serious charge of “assaulting police officers” – itself a clear sign of the government’s intent to use the police and law courts, with increasingly harsh measures, in an attempt to break the planned Occupy Central (OC) protest, and the wider democracy struggle.

“Occupy Central now!”

OC leaders visited the protest on Saturday morning and criticised the police tactics against peaceful protesters, including using pepper spray “without warning”. But many protesters were critical that the OC leaders were not prepared to issue a wider call to join the protest and bring forward the planned occupation, which news media have speculated will start on Wednesday 1 October. According to the South China Morning Post, protesters at Tamar chanted “Occupy Central now!” and “How can you face the students now otherwise!” as OC spokesman Benny Tai Yiu-ting and co-founder Dr Chan Kin-man addressed the student occupiers.

Growing criticism that Hong Kong police tactics have been "mainlandised".
Growing criticism that Hong Kong police tactics have been “mainlandised”.

The student strike of the past week, involving thousands of university students and latterly also around 3,000 secondary school students, including some youth of 12 and 13 years old, was the biggest of its kind for 30 years. It has had a big impact on the wider democracy struggle by giving a glimpse of the kind of collective action and ‘civil disobedience’ needed to challenge the Chinese dictatorship’s increasingly repressive agenda for Hong Kong. The territory’s promised shift towards democracy has not only stalled but gone into reverse.

Deepening crackdown on dissent

The decision handed down on 31 August by the Standing Committee of China’s fake ‘parliament’, the NPC, ruling out democratic elections in Hong Kong in 2017, marks a turning point. Beijing is intent on restricting democratic and civil liberties in Hong Kong, that permit open criticism and protests against the Chinese regime, in stark contrast to the rest of China. These moves coincide with a deepening crackdown on dissent in mainland China, as shown by the life sentence imposed by a Chinese court last week on Uighur economics professor Ilham Tothi. Tothi is accused of “separatism” but is actually a moderate within-the-system critic of Beijing’s policies towards the Muslim Uighurs in the western region of Xinjiang.

Scholarism convenor Joshua Wong, 17, could face serious charge of "assaulting police."
Scholarism convenor Joshua Wong, 17, could face serious charge of “assaulting police.”

The supporters of Socialist Action and the Citywide School Strike Campaign, which Socialist Action initiated to fight for the creation of a school student union, are urging a new student strike to be announced in Hong Kong schools and universities as a reply to the crackdown of 26-27 September. This should especially demand the immediate release and dropping of charges against Scholarism’s Joshua Wong and all the other peaceful protesters detained by police. It is imperative that these repressive measures are answered immediately with mass action. A new secondary students’ strike should take place before the 1 October holiday, unless all the charges are immediately dropped. This would be a way to build on the momentum of the strikes and rallies of the past few days, which has seen new and younger forces take their place in the struggle against dictatorship and for immediate, full democracy.

  • For an urgent new 1-day student strike to reply to government and police repression!
  • For the immediate release of the Civic Square arrestees! Drop all charges!
  • For an independent and open public investigation of police brutality on 26-27 September!
  • Build democratic strike committees in every school and university to continue the struggle, with mass meetings and leafleting at schools!
  • For the creation of a mass school students union to organise secondary students and fight for their rights!
  • No nomination committee, no fake democracy! For mass struggle in Hong Kong and China to end one-party dictatorship and the rule of the billionaires!