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Covid restrictions ignored in Hong Kong as hundreds of protesters take to the streets



PHOTO: Wikimedia

Hundreds of Hong Kong residents have defied police orders, taking to the streets to mark one year since pro-democracy protests began. They assembled in the Central district and marched to nearby streets, shouting various political slogans including, “Fight to the End”. There were also large gatherings in shopping malls, with people singing protest anthems and holding up “Liberate Hong Kong” signs.

Posting on Twitter, police warned that they could use force to break up the crowds, adding that those violating current restrictions on gatherings could get 5 years in jail. Pepper spray was used in one incident where protesters were tackled to the ground. The police have urged people to stop breaking the law, accusing activists of blocking roads and building makeshift barricades. So far, 53 people have been arrested.

“Lawful protests are always respected but unlawful acts are to be rejected. Please stop breaking the law.”

Thai PBS World reports that Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has voiced her opposition to the protests, urging citizens to remain calm and saying “lessons need to be learnt on all sides”.

“Everyone has to learn their lesson, including the Hong Kong government. Hong Kong cannot bear that kind of chaos, and the people of Hong Kong want a stable and peaceful environment to be able to live and work here happily.”

Tuesday was the one year anniversary of pro-democracy protests that originally began in opposition to a now dropped extradition bill that proposed sending lawbreakers to China to face trial. Months of protests followed, often leading to violent scenes and accusations of police brutality, wreaking significant damage on the Hong Kong economy well before the Covid-19 crisis added to the devastation.

The virus outbreak and associated restrictions meant things quietened down for a bit, but China’s introduction of a new national security law has stoked the still burning embers of democracy protests and led to hundreds taking to the streets once more. Their objections are echoed by critics of the law worldwide, who say it strikes a blow at the “one country, two systems” policy agreed when Britain returned Hong Kong to China in 1997.

For its part, China blames foreign interference for the protests, as it rushes to enact the national security law, which will outlaw what it sees as activities aimed at undermining China’s authority or campaigning for Hong Kong independence.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World


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