Police were accused yesterday of political suppression of right-of-abode activists following last week's arson attack at Immigration Tower by arresting people involved in earlier demonstrations.
Detectives, who began a series of arrests last Thursday, the day after the attack, have so far arrested eight people and charged them with unlawful assembly and obstructing police during a march on June 25 to mark the anniversary of the reinterpretation of the Basic Law and a sit-in which turned violent outside the Central Government Offices the next day.
The vice-chairman of one abode-seekers' pressure group, Ngan Siu-lai, said: 'I think the police wanted to suppress the abode activists so that they could not create any more trouble following the arson attack.'
The eight abode-seekers arrested were those injured during the clashes with police on June 26 when officers used pepper spray and were accused of punching protesters.
Five members of the Hong Kong Federation of Students said yesterday detectives had asked to meet them over the weekend regarding their involvement in the two events. The students accused the police of heavy-handedness when calling on them at their homes and said the move was a sign of increased political oppression.
The students, who are planning to meet the police next Tuesday, said officers told them that they might be arrested for joining or organising an unlawful assembly. One of them is also accused of obstructing officers.
One of the five, Chu Kong-wai, claimed the officers who looked for him at his home warned his father: 'Your son is the black hand behind the scenes. Ask him not to do this anymore.'
Federation of Students spokesman Lo Wai-ming said it was the biggest and most high-profile police action against their group in recent years.
He admitted they had not notified the police about the June march seven days in advance, as is required in the Public Order Ordinance, but he said it was because the law violated their rights as protected under an international covenant.
A police spokesman rejected allegations that the abode-seekers' arrests were an act of political suppression, saying they resulted from investigations and Department of Justice advice.
Superintendent Man Chi-hung said there was a possibility that abode claimants arrested for the June demonstrations were also linked with the arson attack, but stressed that the eight had claimed they were not involved with the case, in which 19 people have been charged.
Seventeen of the Immigration Tower fire victims remained in hospital yesterday. Five, including two immigration officers, were in critical condition.
A representative of the Right of Abode Committee, Fu Ka-wai, said it wanted to visit the victims and offered apologies to injured immigration officers.