Four young people have been arrested in Hong Kong under a new controversial security law imposed by China.
Three males and one female, aged 16 to 21, were detained, a police official said late on Wednesday.
“Our investigation showed that a group has recently announced on social media that they have set up an organisation for Hong Kong independence,” said Li Kwai-wah, senior superintendent of a newly formed unit to enforce the security law.
Beijing's new law was introduced on July 1. It criminalises subversion, secession and collusion with foreign forces.
It has come under fire from western governments, who argue it restricts Hong Kong's freedoms and autonomy from Beijing.
The European Union said on Tuesday the new law was "a matter of grave concern" and eroded Hong Kong's rights to freedom, which were supposed to be upheld under the terms of its handover from Britain to China until 2047.
But Hong Kong and Chinese government officials say the law is crucial for national security defences in the wake of anti-government protests which have been ongoing since 2019.
What do we know about the arrests?
All four are believed to be students. Police did not identify the suspects or their group.
An organisation called Studentlocalism — which announced it was disbanding just before the law took effect — said on Facebook that four former members had been arrested on secession charges, including ex-leader Tony Chung.
Police said the group in question had set up recently and that the posts were made after the law took effect late on June 30.
“They said they want to establish a Hong Kong republic, and that they will unreservedly fight for it,” Li said.
“They also said they want to unite all pro-independence groups in Hong Kong for this purpose.”
It is not the first time arrests have been made under the new law.
At the beginning of July, 10 protesters were arrested in Hong Kong as certain political views and symbols are now illegal, including showing support for Hong Kong, Taiwan, Xinjiang and Tibet independence.
And on Tuesday a leading figure in Hong Kong’s political opposition was fired from his university post.
Benny Tai was ousted from his position as an associate law professor, local media reported.
Tai has been out on bail since being sentenced to 16 months in prison in April 2019 as one of nine leaders put on trial for their part in 2014 protests for greater democracy known as the Umbrella Movement.