Hong Kong police said on Friday they had arrested eight people, including a leading pro-independence leader, after seizing weapons and suspected bomb-making material in a raid.
A wave of protests are planned across Hong Kong this weekend, as well as a strike which could bring the city to a standstill.
The protests in Hong Kong, a former British colony which returned to China in 1997, pose one of the gravest populist challenges to Communist Party rulers in Beijing.
The protests against a now suspended extradition bill, which would have seen people sent for trial in Communist Party controlled mainland courts, have expanded to demands for greater democracy and the resignation of Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam.
Under Chinese rule Hong Kong has been allowed to retain extensive freedoms, such as an independent judiciary, but many residents see the extradition bill as the latest step in a relentless march towards mainland control. The civil servants rally will be the first time government employees have actively promoted a demonstration in Hong Kong.
An open letter by a group of civil servants asked Lam to respond positively to five public demands: withdraw the extradition bill completely; stop calling the protests ‘rioting’; waive all charges against those arrested; set up an independent commission of inquiry; and restart political reform.
“At present the people of Hong Kong are already on the verge of collapse. HK has always been well behaved and enjoys a high degree of freedom. It is a pity that we have seen extreme oppression...”, the letter said.
On Thursday night the government said the city’s 180,000 civil servants must maintain politically neutral.
“At this difficult moment, government colleagues have to stay united and work together to uphold the core values of the civil service and not to affect the effective operation of the government,” said the statement.