Three pro-democracy protest leaders in Hong Kong were arrested in the early hours of Aug. 30, a few hours after protesters held citywide screenings of an Oscar-nominated documentary film about Ukraine’s EuroMaidan Revolution, “Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom.”

The Ukrainian revolution drove President Viktor Yanukovych from power on Feb. 22, 2014.

Joshua Wong, a 22-year-old protest leader, Hong Kong independence advocate and Nobel Peace Prize nominee, was snatched by plain-clothed police officers from the street at 7:30 a.m. before being bundled into an unmarked minivan, according to a statement from his political organization, Demosisto.

On Aug. 6, Wong told the Kyiv Post that he feared a crackdown from Beijing was imminent and that the police had started to use levels of force that were life-threatening to protesters.


Agnes Chow, also 22 and a Demosisto member, was arrested around the same time as Wong, while 28-year-old Andy Chan, the head of a pro-independence political party, was arrested at Hong Kong airport as he attempted to travel to Japan.

Wong and Chow have been charged by the Hong Kong police with public order offenses relating to unlawful assembly and incitement, according to an official statement on Aug. 30.

Both activists have taken a leading role in the months-long pro-democracy protests that have gripped Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous territory that was a British colony until it was handed over to China in 1997.

Despite conditions of economic, political and judicial freedoms for the region when it was handed over, Beijing is widely seen to have been consolidating its influence in Hong Kong as it attempts to exert full control over the territory.

The arrests of protest leaders this morning, as well as the detention of more than 900 other demonstrators throughout recent weeks, have come amid concerns from observers and experts who increasingly warn of an imminent crackdown from Beijing.

Recent weeks have seen increased Chinese military activity in and around the territory of Hong Kong, as the police there face accusations that they have lost control of street protests that have morphed into a pro-democracy “Summer of Discontent”.


On the evening of Aug. 29, protest leaders and communities arranged citywide screenings of the Oscar-nominated Ukrainian documentary film, “Winter on Fire”, which documents the 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution that eventually ousted Moscow-backed Viktor Yanukovich from power.

The film was shown throughout Hong Kong at some 40 separate venues, mostly outdoors, according to organizers.

Pictures on social media show that the documentary was projected onto walls and shown on screens brought to different locations. Other photos shown Hongkongers watching the film together, cross-legged, sat in the street.

Protesters, pro-democracy lawmakers and other Hongkongers have told the Kyiv Post that their movement is “strongly inspired” by the efforts of Ukrainian revolutionaries who occupied Kyiv’s Maidan square. Ukrainians in turn have also expressed an affinity and solidarity with protesters in Hong Kong, where activists say they are attempting to free themselves from the authoritarian grip of Beijing.


“We are strongly aware of, and inspired by, a documentary named ‘Winter on Fire’… and by how the people in Ukraine started a strike to fight for their freedom,” said Joshua Wong in a recent interview with the Kyiv post.

“Even though we come from different cultural and historical contexts… No matter the differences between Ukraine and Hong Kong, our fights for freedom and democracy are the same,” he said, adding that Ukraine’s struggle to free itself from the grip of Russia is mirrored in Hong Kong’s resistance against communist China.

Before his Aug. 30 arrest, Wong had already spent more than 100 days in jail for his activism. He has also been the target of violent attacks from Beijing-backed thugs that have put him in the hospital.

Arthur Kharytonov, a civil society activist, coordinator at the Free Hong Kong Center in Kyiv, and co-founder of the Liberal Democratic League of Ukraine, says his group has been following events closely and expected a Chinese crackdown against Hongkongers.


The citywide screenings of “Winter on Fire” by protest leaders could have been the final straw for the authorities: “Right after the screenings I started to get messages that people have been arrested… Without any real reason,” he told the Kyiv Post.

“EuroMaidan has become the biggest inspiration to Hongkongers, and it’s very dangerous for mainland (China) to see this inspiration from Ukraine,” he said.

“The mainland China government also started a very active pro-Russian propaganda and anti-Ukrainian media campaign… and talk about us (Ukraine) as a Russian colony,” Kharytonov added.

On Aug. 16, the director and producer of “Winter on Fire”, Evgeny Afineevsky, penned an open letter addressed to the people of Hong Kong in which he expressed solidarity and support with their movement.

He called on Hongkongers to stay strong and unified: “I’d like for all of you to see that hope truly lies in the hands of today’s younger generations,” he also wrote. “(They) believe in the possibilities of change and freedom – even if the cost of that freedom is their lives.”

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