HONG KONG, July 1 (Reuters) – Police deployed within the streets of Hong Kong in giant numbers on Thursday to forestall protests on the anniversary of its return to Chinese language rule, and its performing chief stated a nationwide safety regulation had introduced order again to town after chaos.
Police vans, water cannon vehicles, armoured autos and police items patrolled the streets. Passers-by have been stopped and searched, with 11 folks arrested within the Mong Kok district for allegedly distributing “seditious” leaflets.
Components of Victoria Park on Hong Kong Island – the place an annual civil society and pro-democracy march usually kicks off – have been shut down to forestall any public processions or conferences from going down, and all different public assemblies banned by police, citing COVID-19 restrictions.
Hong Kong’s performing chief John Lee stated in a speech the authorities would proceed to take a “regular stance” to guard nationwide safety, and that town had returned to order after a interval of chaos.
“Hong Kong completely has the circumstances to rebound,” he stated.
Beijing imposed the safety regulation on June 30 final yr to punish something China deems as subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with overseas forces with as much as life in jail.
The safety regulation was Beijing’s first main step to place the worldwide monetary hub onto an authoritarian path, kick-starting a marketing campaign dubbed “patriots rule Hong Kong,” which included strikes to cut back democratic illustration within the metropolis’s legislature and numerous screening mechanisms for politicians.
Lee was talking at a flag-raising ceremony marking the twenty fourth anniversary of the previous British colony’s return to Chinese language rule in 1997, which coincides with the centenary of the Chinese language Communist Occasion.
Chief Govt Carrie Lam and different senior officers have been invited to Beijing for the social gathering celebrations. Lee was appointed as her No.2 final week after taking part in a key function within the crackdown over the previous yr as safety secretary.
Critics of the federal government say it has used the safety regulation to crush dissent within the former British colony. Officers in Beijing and Hong Kong say the brand new regulation has plugged nationwide safety “loopholes” uncovered by anti-government demonstrations in 2019.
To this point below the regulation, authorities have arrested 117 folks, largely democratic politicians, activists, journalists and college students.
“On the day of July 1, I’m nothing a couple of of tens of 1000’s of Hong Kongers who need their voices heard,” tweeted pro-democracy campaigner and barrister Chow Dangle-tung, who was re-arrested on the eve of the delicate anniversary.
“They wish to kill the monkey to scare the hen, then we should allow them to know Hong Kongers will not surrender.”
Beijing stated it was crucial after mass pro-democracy and anti-China protests in 2019 which have been described as acts endangering nationwide safety. Many protesters, nevertheless, say they have been demanding Beijing respect constitutionally assured rights and freedoms.
Normally on July 1, tens of 1000’s of individuals take to the streets in Hong Kong to protest towards something from Beijing’s manoeuvres within the metropolis to unaffordable housing.
“It’s crystal clear that below the NSL (nationwide safety regulation), over a yr, it does have a chilling impact on Hong Kong folks … much less folks would have the boldness to go on the road to talk out,” stated Raphael Wong, an activist with the League of Social Democrats.
The group held a protest with three others within the morning that was hemmed in by dozens of police. They held up a yellow banner calling on authorities to “Free all political prisoners.”
In an internet dialogue on the regulation that included officers from the US, Britain, Japan, the European Union and the United Nations, there have been requires China to permit impartial observers to return to Hong Kong to evaluate the state of affairs on the bottom, with a view to hunt methods for China to enhance the regulation.
“We wish to come,” stated Clement Voule, the U.N. Particular Rapporteur on Rights to Freedom of Peaceable Meeting.
Reporting by Sara Cheng, James Pomfret, Jessie Pang and Anne Marie Roantree in HONG KONG; Enhancing by Stephen Coates, Shri Navaratnam and Angus MacSwan
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