The police have strenuously denied that the force deliberately timed the arrests of pro-democracy figures, including prominent activist Joshua Wong and lawmaker Cheng Chung-tai, so they all came altogether just ahead of any mass protest that takes place on Saturday.
“Basically, timing of arrest does not dictate our investigation – we’ll arrest a person as soon as we have gathered sufficient evidence to prove his or her offence,” said Chief Superintendent John Tse of the force’s public relations branch.
“The allegation that we time our arrest is totally false.”
A fear of a citywide crackdown on activists was spurred by news of the arrest of Demosisto's Joshua Wong and fellow group member Agnes Chow on Friday morning.
This followed the arrest of Chan Ho-tin, former leader of a now-banned pro-independence group, on Thursday evening at the airport as he was about to board a flight.
Also on Friday, it was revealed that Sha Tin district councillor Rick Hui, former University of Hong Kong student union president Althea Suen, and Civic Passion lawmaker Cheng Chung-tai had also been arrested.
Cheng is suspected of conspiracy to commit criminal damage during the storming of Legco on July 1.
Claudia Mo, convenor of the pan-democratic camp in Legco, said it was no coincidence that the arrests had taken place a day ahead of a banned rally and march on Saturday.
“The Carrie Lam government is trying very hard to heighten this chilling effect in society by banning the Civil Human Rights Front parade tomorrow – they hope fewer people would dare to take to the streets,” she said.
“But they also knew on the other hand that it would backfire. This ban will have the opposite effect of fanning the fire, adding fuel to the fire, that would prompt even more people to come out tomorrow.”
She questioned whether a trap was being set, warning this could incite chaos and mayhem.