Police said two men and one woman aged 17 to 21 were arrested for remarks by separatists on social media.
Studentlocalism, once a pro-independent group, identified the three on Facebook as former governor Tony Chung and former members William Chan and Yanni Ho.
According to the British-based activist group Friends of Hong Kong, who said he was working with Chung, he was planning to apply for asylum at the US consulate in Hong Kong before his arrest.
The Hong Kong branch said that the Chinese authorities have banned dismantling, overthrow and collusion with foreign powers shortly after the city was imposed with national security laws by the Chinese authorities.
Police accused Chung and others of still living in Hong Kong of defending the city’s independence from China, being sentenced to three to ten years in prison, or for defending life imprisonment for crimes of “significant nature.” The accused denied that it had nothing to do with the separatist post in question.
A Hong Kong government spokesman said in an interview with CNN on Wednesday that he would not comment on media reports of the arrest, but “there is no justification for the so-called’political asylum’ for Hong Kong people.”
“It should be emphasized that people in Hong Kong are prosecuted for conduct contrary to Hong Kong law, regardless of political beliefs or background. In addition, trials are conducted by independent judiciary in accordance with the rule of law,” he added.
However, providing shelter for activists in Hong Kong would be a huge expansion, could create a diplomatic fire storm in both Washington and Beijing, and potentially threaten the future of the Hong Kong consulate itself.
CNN reached out to the US Consulate General in Hong Kong and the Hong Kong and Macau offices.
The situation regarding Tang’s surrender is still unclear, but it may have been triggered by fears that the United States could close the San Francisco consulate if she continued to stay inside. Similar concerns may cause US officials to hesitate to give refuge to dissidents in Hong Kong, China’s most important US mission after the Beijing embassy.
While the consulate was shut down earlier this year, some Chinese state-run media accused the United States of exerting influence, calling for the closure of the Hong Kong consulate. China seems to be avoiding further expansion for the time being, but given Hong Kong’s economic importance and the number of Americans living in the city, losing Hong Kong’s mission will be a major blow to Washington, both diplomatically and practically.
CNN’s Eric Cheung contributed to the report.