HONG KONG, April 26 (Reuters) - Hong Kong police on Wednesday arrested two disqualified pro-independence legislators for unlawful assembly over an effort to force their way into a Legislative Council meeting in November, their political party said.
Yau Wai-ching, 25, and Baggio Leung, 30, were picked up at their homes early in the morning and taken to a police station for questioning, their party, Youngspiration, said in a statement.
Their assistants and a few volunteers were also arrested, it added, without elaborating. The activists were still in the police station on Wednesday afternoon.
Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“There may be dark days ahead, there may be more arrests and legal challenges but we shall struggle against evil on the streets, in the courts, within the community and on every media platform,” Youngspiration said.
The democratically elected pair, who represent a new breed of more radical activists moving into the political mainstream, had their swearing-in oaths invalidated last October after they used language deemed derogatory to China and displayed a banner declaring “Hong Kong is not China”.
The issue of independence, for long taboo, has gained momentum since pro-democracy protests in late 2014, which paralysed parts of the Asian financial centre, failed to wrangle concessions from Communist Party rulers in Beijing.
The detentions are likely to reinforce concern among democracy activists about interference by Beijing in Hong Kong’s affairs, despite a system meant to guarantee the financial hub’s autonomy.
In March, nine leaders of the 2014 democracy protests were charged with inciting the street occupation.
The nine were charged just a day after a new Beijing-backed leader, Carrie Lam, was chosen as the city’s next leader, seen by many as a worrying sign after she had vowed to heal divisions in the Chinese-ruled city and unite society.
In October, the president of the legislature delayed the second swearing-in of Yau and Leung and temporarily banned them from attending meetings, an unprecedented move that followed weeks of pressure from factions loyal to Beijing.
China’s parliament in November passed a ruling that effectively barred the pair from taking office, Beijing’s most direct intervention in the territory’s legal and political system since the 1997 handover.
A Hong Kong court later disqualified the two from taking office, ruling their oath of allegiance invalid.
Hong Kong, a former British colony, returned to China in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” agreement that ensured its freedoms and wide-ranging autonomy, including a separate legal system.
But Communist Party rulers in Beijing have ultimate control, stepping in to interpret the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s constitution, and some residents are concerned they are increasingly interfering to head off dissent. (Reporting By Venus Wu; Writing by Anne Marie Roantree; Editing by Robert Birsel)