Hong Kong authorities detained a 22-year-old student activist on Wednesday morning on suspicion of involvement in the violent "Fishball Revolution" protests which took place on the Lunar New Year.
Scholarism, a student activist group which advocates for political reform, posted on Facebook that one of its members, Derek Lam Shun-hin, was "detained and arrested by the police half an hour before departure at the Hong Kong airport." Lam was traveling to Taiwan with his family on vacation, and had gone through airport security before being intercepted by authorities.
The violent clashes between police and protesters on the streets of Mong Kok in the early hours of Tuesday morning are being dubbed the "Fishball Revolution" in reference to city authorities' efforts to clamp down on street food vendors — fishballs being a street-food staple in Hong Kong. The festivities took a turn for the worst around 10pm, when police donned riot gear in a bid to clear hawkers selling their wares along a main thoroughfare.
The crowd set fires, lobbed glass bottles, stones and ceramic pots at law enforcement, who responded with pepper spray, arrests and warning shots. Dramatic video footage shot by bystanders shows skirmishes between law enforcement and hawkers on the streets of Mong Kok, a busy residential and commercial part of Hong Kong. Police took 61 protesters into custody that evening and have reportedly vowed to continue making arrests of other suspected participants.
Scholarism's Facebook post contends that Lam "patronized Mong Kok hawker stalls at 10 pm on February 8 (Monday), and left the area at around 2:15 am on the following day. During the three-hour period, Derek did not attempt to attack the police force with any weapons, nor did he join the protest by resort to violent actions." At the time of Scholarism's first post, the attorney representing the group had not yet been able to contact Lam.
The scene in the streets of Mong Kok on Monday night and early Tuesday morning was reminiscent of the pro-democracy Umbrella Revolution of 2014, when students occupied busy thoroughfares for weeks to protest reforms to the Hong Kong electoral system that would give China the power to vet all candidates vying to be the city's chief executive. The heavy-handed manner with which Hong Kong police responded to protesters drew international criticism. Lam was arrested during those protests as well, and charged with common assault. The South China Morning Post reported that Lam was due to go on trial on February 18.
Scholarism claimed that the police searched Lam's home without a warrant. In response, a spokesperson for the police told the Post that "the police followed protocol and obtained the arrestee's consent before searching his home."
"During that search the arrestee's lawyer requested to meet the arrestee, and he left his home accompanied by officers," the spokesperson added.
Later on Wednesday, Scholarism released an additional statement quoting Lam's lawyer, saying that Lam would likely be charged with "taking part in a riot." He could face up to ten years in prison.
"We are deeply resentful of the police's indiscriminate arrest of the student as means to assault the people's right to assembly and freedom of expression," Scholarism wrote on Facebook. "We urge the police to account for the student's current situation, and release Derek Lam promptly. We, in no fear, would use all our strength to fight this battle."