Hong Kong student held at airport after violent clashes

AP News
Posted: Feb 10, 2016 3:10 AM
Hong Kong student held at airport after violent clashes

HONG KONG (AP) — A Hong Kong student activist was detained at the city's airport on Wednesday morning, apparently on suspicion of involvement in a violent Lunar New Year clash between police and protesters, his group said.

The group Scholarism said on its Facebook page that 22-year-old Derek Lam Shun-hin had been detained shortly before boarding a flight to Taiwan with his family. Lam sent a voice message to friends in the group saying he was being taken away for an investigation, the group said.

A lawyer working for the group has been unable to contact him, Scholarism said.

At least 61 people have been held over Monday night's clashes and police have vowed further arrests.

Violence broke out when activists angered over authorities' attempts to crack down on food hawkers in the crowded working class neighborhood of Monkok held running battles with police into the early morning hours of Tuesday. Protesters pelted officers with stones, glass bottles and other pieces of debris and set fires.

Police responded with arrests and warning shots. The violence was the worst in Hong Kong since pro-democracy protests rocked the city in 2014, and left a growing mistrust between the public and authorities.

In its statement, Scholarism said Lam had been present at the Mongkok hawker stalls but did not participate in the violence.

"We are deeply resentful of the police's indiscriminate arrest of the student as means to assault the people's right to assembly and freedom of expression," the statement said.

As a participant in the 2014 protests, Lam had been charged with common assault and was due to go on trial on Feb. 18, the Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post reported.

Wednesday was a public holiday in Hong Kong and there was no immediate comment from police or the government.

A former British colony, Hong Kong retained its own economic and legal systems when it was handed over to China in 1997, along with levels of freedom of speech and assembly unheard of on the mainland.

However, concerns have been growing among many that China's Communist Party is steadily eroding civil liberties in the territory of 7.1 million people.