Founder of banned Hong Kong independence party arrested

The founder of a banned Hong Kong independence party has been arrested in a raid where offensive weapons and explosives were found, a senior police source said on Friday as the city reels from weeks of anti-government protests.

In a statement, police said eight people — seven men and one woman — were arrested at an industrial building on Thursday evening in the district of Sha Tin on charges of possession of an offensive weapon and possession of explosives without a license.

The statement did not identify the individuals arrested. But a senior police source said that independence activist Andy Chan was among those detained.

“Andy Chan was arrested inside a premise with (a) gasoline bomb seized,” the source said, asking not to be identified.

Chan’s independence party — the Hong Kong National Party — was outlawed last year on the grounds it posed a national security threat, the first such ban since 1997.

His party contained only a few dozen members but its formation infuriated Beijing, which sees calls for independence as an absolute red line.

The banning of his party — and the expulsion of a Financial Times journalist who chaired a talk with Chan at the city’s press club before the party was outlawed — were held up as two examples of sliding freedoms in Hong Kong as Beijing clamps down on dissent.

In Washington on Thursday, President Donald Trump labeled the protests “riots,” adopting the language used by Chinese authorities and suggesting the U.S. would stay out of an issue that is “between Hong Kong and China.”