HONG KONG: Nine democracy protesters were arrested in Hong Kong Thursday over an anti-Beijing rally in the latest swoop by police as activists say they are being persecuted. Concerns are growing that the semi-autonomous city’s freedoms are under threat from Beijing, fuelling calls from some groups for greater autonomy or even a complete split from China. Pro-independence activists Yau Wai-ching and Baggio Leung were arrested and charged Wednesday over causing chaos in the legislature after being barred from taking up their seats as lawmakers last year. And last month nine pro-democracy activists – including student protesters and lawmakers – were charged for their roles in mass 2014 pro-democracy Umbrella Movement rallies. The spate of arrests come ahead of an expected visit by China’s President Xi Jinping to mark the 20th anniversary of the handover of the city by Britain back to China in 1997 on July 1.