Most of us are used to booking a dinner table. How would you react if the police made an appointment with you for an arrest? This may sound ludicrous, but so far Hong Kong police have done just that with more than 50 activists in the aftermath of the massive sit-in protests dubbed Occupy Central Movement, a series of protests demanding a genuine universal suffrage of Hong Kong's top leaders.
The activists were arrested under the allegations of inciting and participating in illegal assembly between September and December of last year. Although they were released after the “arrest appointments”, the activists believe the arrest action is meant to create an atmosphere of white terror so that ordinary citizens would be hesitant to participate in future protest action. But the police defended their position by saying that they were just being “civilized” in their action.
Lam Shun Hin, a student activist from Scholarism, described on Facebook the “civilized” phone call he received from the police “organized crime” department on January 6 (via Scholarism's page):
當我十點幾收到咁提神ge morning call
‘Hi, Lam Shun Hin, I am from the organized crime unit…’
The morning call at 10am woke me up and I knew that I would probably be arrested…
‘We suspected that you were involved in the planning and organization of unauthorized assembly and would like to invite you to help out our investigation next week.’
‘Are you going to arrest me instantly on that day?’
Dear Friends, please don't be worried. When I rushed into the Civic Square [which is outside the government headquarter on September 27, 2014, an incident that triggered the massive protests], I was also arrested. I have prepared for this psychologically. I am fearless to take the consequence of civil disobedience.
I believe that God teaches us to exercise justice on earth and be compassionate to our fellows. When facing white terror, I will work with God with my humble heart.
Wong Hoi Ming, an experienced activist who has been arrested several times in the past two years, explained why the police arrested them in such a manner:
How come they perform in such [a] stupid manner. They had not decided that they would sue them and release them without any condition [the activists refuse to pay any bail]. By doing so, they have to start all the procedures of the arrest again if they decide to proceed with the prosecution. The answer is simple. The police and the Department of Justice had not prepared the legal documents for [the] court proceeding. Then why don't they wait until they have enough materials for prosecution before they arrest the activists? The answer is also simple, because the Police Head Andy Tsang had openly claimed that they would ‘arrest’ the occupation protest activists within three months after the protest sites were cleared.
The arrest and the release is to serve the Police Head's public statement. To show that the police authority is powerful and to show to the Chinese Communist Party that he is ‘effective’. From such [an] angle, both the police officers and the arrestees have been turned into political tools for creating the heroic image of the police head.
In all senses, the “civilized” arrest by appointment is full of dark humor, which was captured in a viral photo circulated online over the weekend. The photo shows three ancient figures, the most remarkable heroes of the Three Kingdoms Period – Liu Beij, Guan Yu and Zhang Fei – standing outside the Mong Kok Police Station. Interestingly, Guan Yu, who represents justice, is a God worshipped by many local police officers. Netizens quipped that the police had also booked these three historic figures for arrest appointments.