Despite police banning protest marches planned in Hong Kong over the weekend, messaging app Telegram is still giving organisers the opportunity to mobilise.
Telegram, a popular encrypted messaging app, will release an update over the next few days that will allow users to cloak their identities in the app’s group chats.
The app is set to introduce a new function, allowing users to disable matching by phone number, reports Reuters.
The update will help thousands of Hong Kong protesters take their cues from more than 100 groups on Telegram, all while blocking their identities from Chinese authorities.
The move by Telegram comes as Hong Kong police arrested a number of prominent activists and three lawmakers since Friday.
The leading face of the Hong Kong pro-democracy resistance, Joshua Wong, has vowed not to give up after he was among those arrested and charged with inciting others to join a protest outside a police station in June.
The leading democracy activist was a day ahead of a planned rally in the city that has been banned by police.
Streaming binge worthy dramas just became easier with the new Foxtel Experience. Stream over 100 complete drama series.
“Our secretary-general @joshuawongcf was just arrested this morning at roughly 7:30,” Demosisto tweeted.
“He was forcefully pushed into a private mini-van on the street in broad daylight. Our lawyers following the case now.”
After he and fellow activist Agnes Chow were charged, the pair were released on bail.
On his release, Wong told reporters that “we will continue our fight no matter how they arrest and prosecute us.”.
Chow echoed his comments, saying “we Hong Kong people won’t give up and won’t be scared … we will keep fighting for democracy.”
Police say they detained one – Cheng Chung-tai – on suspicion of breaking into the legislature building and vandalising objects on July 1.
They arrested the other two lawmakers, Au Nok-hin and Jeremy Tam, on allegations of obstructing police from performing their duties.
Protest organisers have cancelled plans to hold a massive demonstration today after police refused to give permission.
However, police insist the timing of the arrests is not related to the protest plan.
Hong Kong has been racked by three months of political unrest, with huge, peaceful demonstrations interspersed by violence and stand-offs between police and protesters.
Saturday marks the fifth anniversary of Beijing’s rejection of a call for universal suffrage in the city, a decision that’s parked the 79-day Umbrella Movement led by mainly young protesters, including Wong.
Permission for a mass rally this weekend was denied on security grounds, raising the likelihood of another weekend of clashes between police and protesters, who will likely come out in defiance of the ban.
The police commander of Hong Kong island, Kwok Pak Chung, appealed to people to stay away from any unauthorised rallies, warning that those caught could face a five-year jail term.
The protests ignited when the city’s Beijing-backed government tried to pass a bill allowing extraditions to mainland China.
But they have evolved into a wider call for greater democracy and an investigation into allegations of police brutality.
Protesters say freedoms in the semi-autonomous city, unique within China, are being eroded by Beijing.
The reported arrest came after pictures emerged over the past few days showing Chinese tanks and troops moving through the streets of Hong Kong, where entrenched protesters refused to move on.
A boat carrying Chinese soldiers also docked in the city overnight.
The Chinese Government claimed the operation was part of routine patrols by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.
More than 850 people have been arrested in connection with the recent protests since June.