Nine leaders and key participants of Hong Kong’s Occupy movement were arrested and charged on Monday night over their roles in the 2014 pro-democracy street protests – a day after Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor pledged to unite a divided society as the city’s newly elected chief executive . In a move considered long overdue by critics of the protests, authorities ordered the three Occupy Central founders, along with six lawmakers and activists, to report to the Wan Chai police headquarters. The three leaders of the protests, Reverend Chu Yiu-ming and academics Benny Tai Yiu-ting and Chan Kin-man, face three counts each – conspiracy to commit public nuisance, inciting others to commit public nuisance, and inciting people to incite others to commit public nuisance. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of seven years in jail. The trio will be prosecuted over offences allegedly committed between March 27, 2013 – when they first published in newspapers their Occupy manifesto – and December 2014, when they turned themselves in to police. One or both of the incitement charges were laid against the remaining six – lawmakers Tanya Chan and Shiu Ka-chun, Tommy Cheung Sau-yin and Eason Chung Yiu-wah, two former leaders of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, League of Social Democrats vice-chairman Raphael Wong Ho-ming, and former legislator Lee Wing-tat. They will be prosecuted for offences allegedly committed from September 27 to September 28, 2014. Hong Kong chief executive-elect Carrie Lam’s balancing act All nine were released on bail last night and will appear at Eastern Court on Thursday. They said police had phoned them in the morning to tell them of their arrest by appointment. The news broke less than an hour after outgoing chief executive Leung Chun-ying ’s first meeting with Lam following her election victory on Sunday. While some questioned whether Lam was involved, others accused Leung of deliberately timing the crackdown to follow the election. This is the action of the current administration Carrie Lam, chief executive-elect Lam was quick to distance herself from the arrests, stressing that she had no prior knowledge. “This is the action of the current administration,” she said. “[While] I want to unite society and bridge the divide that has been causing us concern, any such action should not compromise the rule of law in Hong Kong.” The Department of Justice issued a statement denying any political consideration and dismissing suggestions about Lam’s involvement as “baseless and utterly untrue”. “When handling prosecution work, the department does not give prior notice to the executive branch, nor did [it] give prior warning to the chief executive-elect, Mrs Carrie Lam, as suggested by certain rumours,” the department said. More than 1,000 people were arrested during the 2014 protests when thousands blocked key roads in three of the city’s major districts – Admiralty, Mong Kok and Causeway Bay – in the name of fighting for universal suffrage. Of those, 216 cases have already been dealt with by the courts. In a throwback to 2014, more than 100 protesters showed up at the police headquarters to support the nine yesterday, chanting slogans and unfurling yellow umbrellas – a symbol of the Occupy movement. A defiant Tai complained of political persecution as he declared: “If the evidence is in line with what actually happened, I’m likely to plead guilty.” Lee Wing-tat put the blame on the chief executive: “He [Leung] seems to be setting the tone and wanting Lam to follow his hardline approach.” Tanya Chan called it a “poisoned chalice” designed by Leung for Lam, to saddle his successor with trouble despite her peacemaking mission. Chinese University political scientist Ma Ngok described it as “a slap in Lam’s face”.