HK police charge pro-independence activists with unlawful assembly

Venus Wu

* Charged with unlawful assembly, forceful entry

* Disqualified pair say they do not regret their actions

* Detentions likely to fuel concern over interference by

Beijing

(Adds pair have been charged, quotes)

HONG KONG, April 26 (Reuters) - Hong Kong police on

Wednesday charged two disqualified pro-independence legislators

with unlawful assembly and forceful entry over an attempt to

barge into a Legislative Council meeting in November.

The detentions are likely to add to concern among democracy

activists about interference by Beijing in Hong Kong's affairs,

despite a system meant to guarantee the autonomy of the

financial hub.

As they left the police station after being questioned for

most of the day, the two disqualified legislators, Yau

Wai-ching, 25, and Baggio Leung, 30, told reporters they did not

regret their actions.

"The government's regime will do whatever it takes to

destroy and wipe out Hong Kong's cries for self-determination.

But we will never give up," Yau said.

The pair had been picked up at their homes around 7 a.m. and

taken to the station for questioning. Later, they were released

on bail of HK$3,000 and are due to appear in court on April 28.

They said three of their assistants had been detained but it

was unclear if they, too, had been charged.

Police did not respond to a request for comment.

The two, who represent a new breed of more radical activists

moving into the political mainstream, had their swearing-in

oaths invalidated last October after they used language deemed

derogatory to China and displayed a banner declaring "Hong Kong

is not China".

The issue of independence, for long taboo, has gained

momentum since pro-democracy protests in late 2014, which

paralysed parts of the former British colony, failed to secure

concessions from Communist Party rulers in Beijing.

"There may be dark days ahead, there may be more arrests and

legal challenges but we shall struggle against evil on the

streets, in the courts, within the community and on every media

platform," their political party, Youngspiration, said.

In March, nine leaders of the 2014 democracy protests were

charged with inciting the street occupation.

The nine were charged just a day after a new Beijing-backed

leader, Carrie Lam, was chosen as the city's next leader, seen

by many as a worrying sign after she had vowed to heal divisions

in the Chinese-ruled city and unite society.

In October, the president of the legislature delayed the

second swearing-in of Yau and Leung and temporarily banned them

from meetings, an unprecedented step that followed weeks of

pressure from factions loyal to Beijing.

In November, China's parliament passed a ruling that

effectively barred the pair from taking office, Beijing's most

direct intervention in the territory's legal and political

system since the 1997 handover.

A Hong Kong court later disqualified the two from taking

office, ruling their oath of allegiance invalid.

Hong Kong returned to China in 1997 under a "one country,

two systems" agreement that ensured its freedoms and

wide-ranging autonomy, including a separate legal system.

But Communist Party rulers in Beijing have ultimate control,

stepping in to interpret the Basic Law, Hong Kong's

constitution, and some residents are concerned they are

increasingly interfering to head off dissent.

(Reporting By Venus Wu and Pak Yiu,; Writing by Anne Marie

Roantree; Editing by Robert Birsel and Clarence Fernandez)