Pro-democracy activists Joshua Wong, left, and Agnes Chow, are escorted in a police van at a district court in Hong Kong, Aug. 30, 2019.
Pro-democracy activists Joshua Wong, left, and Agnes Chow, are escorted in a police van at a district court in Hong Kong, Aug. 30, 2019.

Police in Hong Kong have arrested three prominent pro-democracy activists, ahead of a major protest that had been planned for Saturday. The march had already been called off by organizers after an appeals board denied permission.

Joshua Wong, founder of political party Demosisto, was arrested Friday on suspicions of organizing an unauthorized protest on June 21, according to police.

"He was suddenly pushed into a private car on the street," Demosisto, which advocates for greater democracy in Hong Kong, said on its official Twitter account.

Pro-democracy activists Agnes Chow, left, and Joshua Wong speak to media outside a district court in Hong Kong, Aug. 30, 2019.

Agnes Chow, also of Demosisto, was arrested at her home.

Police said Wong and Chow, both 22, are being investigated on suspicion of "organizing unorganized assembly" and "knowingly participating in unauthorized assembly."

Wong was a prominent figure of Hong Kong's Umbrella Movement for full democracy during protests in 2014 that paralyzed parts of the city for 79 days. In June, he was released from jail after serving a five-week term for contempt of court.

On Thursday police also arrested Andy Chan, a founder of the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party, on suspicion of "participating in riots" and "attacking police" during a protest on July 13.

In an interview with VOA, Wong said protesters are "afraid of Beijing" and that China's response to the current protests is much more intense than its approach to the Umbrella Movement.

Andy Chan, founder of the Hong Kong National Party, speaks during a luncheon at the Foreign Correspondents' Club in Hong Kong, China, Aug. 14, 2018.

"During the Umbrella Movement, the police fired 80 to 90 [rounds of] tear gas in Hong Kong. Now, they fired 2,000 [rounds of] tear gas in Hong Kong. So, we experienced a stronger crackdown on human rights," he said.

Police have arrested about 900 protesters since the demonstrations, generally peaceful, began in June to stop a now-suspended extradition bill that would allow for sending criminal suspects to Mainland China for trial. 

The protests have evolved into a movement for democratic reforms, but have recently turned violent, with protesters clashing with police.

Beijing has positioned paramilitary forces at Hong Kong's border as part of its campaign to suppress the protests. Wong declared the move "is not a solution to silence the voices of the protesters." 

Wong warned it is "time for people to be aware that perhaps another Tiananmen Massacre may happen in Hong Kong," a reference to the deadly 1989 student-led demonstrations in Beijing. "So the world's leaders should support the Hong Kong people with [their] solidarity."

Wong also told VOA his invitation to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping still stands.

"President Xi should come to Hong Kong and meet with the protesters, not only meeting with me. If he comes to the crowd of the protesters, I think the protesters will chat with him and express the voices of the Hong Kong people."