Police made more than 30 "low-profile" attempts over more than a year to arrest an Occupy Central volunteer for her role in a demonstration two years ago, the police chief said yesterday.
Andy Tsang Wai-hung said officers did not know until she was arrested on Wednesday that Melody Chan Yuk-fung had joined the movement to occupy roads in the city centre in a pro-democracy protest planned for next year.
"The speculation that [this arrest] is related to Occupy Central is purely speculation. There is no basis in it at all," Tsang said.
His remark was rejected by Chan, a trainee solicitor.
The police commissioner said an arrest warrant had been issued for Chan in January last year over her part in a July 1, 2011, demonstration. He said officers had contacted her to say she would be arrested and charged, but she declined to go to the police station.
Officers made more than 20 calls and visited her home 10 times without success, but they did not go to her workplace or put her on a border stop list as they wanted to keep the operation "low profile", Tsang said.
On her Facebook page, Chan said she covered Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's official visit to Beijing in April last year and also travelled to Sweden in August.
She said she encountered no problems leaving and entering Hong Kong on both trips.
"I even took the same plane as Leung Chun-ying when I returned," she wrote. "Does Andy Tsang mean that a wanted person can walk freely under the eyes of customs and police, even beside the chief executive?"
Responding to Tsang's "low profile" assertion, Chan wrote: "So they deployed officers to ambush me downstairs from my office, and took action only after I left The Landmark and walked to the public space outside World-Wide House?"
Some 231 people were detained in Central in 2011 at a sit-in after the annual July 1 rally.
After attending a Kwai Tsing District Council meeting yesterday, Tsang said all the people that the Department of Justice had instructed the police to arrest had now been arrested.
Before the meeting, he told dozens of pan-democrat demonstrators not to subscribe to a conspiracy theory on police handling of protesters. During the meeting, he faced tough questions from councillors on Chan's arrest and protest arrangements.
Chan, who is charged with assisting in the holding of an unauthorised assembly and taking part in an unauthorised assembly, is due in Eastern Court today.
The 30SGroup, an association of young professionals of which Chan is a member, condemned the government and police for making a political arrest.
The chief executive yesterday said he was confident about the professionalism and capability of the police, but declined to comment on Chan's arrest because Tsang was expected to explain the matter.
Leung said it was difficult to predict what would happen if the Occupy Central demonstration went ahead in July next year, because it was an unprecedented movement "completely different" from previous post-rally road blockades.