Hong Kong police arrest two disqualified lawmakers - party

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

Wednesday arrested two disqualified pro-independence legislators

for unlawful assembly over an effort to force their way into a

Legislative Council meeting in November, their political party

said.

Yau Wai-ching, 25, and Baggio Leung, 30, were picked up at

their homes early in the morning and taken to a police station

for questioning, their party, Youngspiration, said in a

statement.

Their assistants and a few volunteers were also arrested, it

added, without elaborating. The activists were still in the

police station on Wednesday afternoon.

Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"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," Youngspiration said.

The democratically elected pair, 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 Asian financial centre, failed to wrangle

concessions from Communist Party rulers in Beijing.

The detentions are likely to reinforce concern among

democracy activists about interference by Beijing in Hong Kong's

affairs, despite a system meant to guarantee the financial hub's

autonomy.

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 attending meetings, an unprecedented move that followed

weeks of pressure from factions loyal to Beijing.

China's parliament in November 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, a former British colony, 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; Writing by Anne Marie Roantree; Editing

by Robert Birsel)