Seven pro-democracy lawmakers either were detained or faced arrest in Hong Kong on Saturday in a move that could escalate ongoing protests against Beijing on the semi-autonomous Chinese island.
Police said three lawmakers were arrested and charged with obstructing the local assembly for their participation in a raucous May 11 meeting over a now-shelved bill that would allow for Hong Kong residents to be extradited to mainland China. The other four lawmakers received summons to arrive at police stations Saturday to face arrest, according to The Associated Press.
All seven are to appear in court Monday.
The move could serve to intensify anger toward the local government a day after demonstrators rushed to the streets to protest the death of a 22-year-old university student. Chow Tsz-Lok was killed this week after falling from a parking garage when police fired tear gas during clashes with pro-democracy protesters.
Chow’s death revived a conversation over alleged abuse of power by local police against demonstrators.
Other pro-democracy lawmakers panned Saturday’s escalation, saying it is intended to provoke more violence to set up an excuse to postpone or cancel district elections scheduled for later this month.
“We’ll say no to their plans,” lawmaker Tanya Chan told a news 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.”
Patrick Nip, Hong Kong’s constitutional and mainland affairs secretary, said the arrests were a result of a police investigation and were not tied to the upcoming elections, according to the AP.
Hong Kong has faced months of unrest as protesters have called for a litany of changes, including universal suffrage and an independent investigation into allegations of excessive use of force by police in dealing with protesters.
The protests began with pro-democracy demonstrations against the extradition bill. Protests expanded after the bill was suspended and declared "dead" to include several other demands as concerns grew that Beijing was looking to tighten its control over the territory.
More than 3,300 people have been arrested thus far, according to the AP.