Thou­sands protest ris­ing Bei­jing in­ter­ven­tion in HK

Po­lice use pep­per spray on demon­stra­tors

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

HONG KONG: Thou­sands of pro­test­ers marched in Hong Kong yes­ter­day, de­mand­ing that China’s cen­tral gov­ern­ment stay out of a po­lit­i­cal dis­pute in the south­ern Chi­nese city af­ter Bei­jing in­di­cated that it would in­ter­vene to de­ter proin­de­pen­dence ad­vo­cates. The dis­pute cen­ters on a provoca­tive dis­play of anti-China sen­ti­ment by two newly elected pro-in­de­pen­dence Hong Kong law­mak­ers at their swear­ing-in cer­e­mony last month.

China’s top leg­isla­tive panel said that Bei­jing must in­ter­vene to de­ter ad­vo­cates of in­de­pen­dence for Hong Kong, call­ing their ac­tions a threat to na­tional se­cu­rity. The Stand­ing Com­mit­tee of China’s rub­ber-stamp leg­is­la­ture said in a state­ment that Bei­jing could not af­ford to do noth­ing in the face of chal­lenges in Hong Kong to China’s au­thor­ity, the of­fi­cial Xin­hua News Agency re­ported late Satur­day.

Yes­ter­day, thou­sands of peo­ple marched in down­town Hong Kong to voice their op­po­si­tion to China’s plan to step in, say­ing the move would un­der­mine the city’s con­sid­er­able au­ton­omy and in­de­pen­dent ju­di­ciary. Sev­eral thou­sand peo­ple gath­ered in the evening to protest out­side Bei­jing’s li­ai­son of­fice. Po­lice used pep­per spray on demon­stra­tors amid some scuf­fling.

Some pro­test­ers wore face masks and hoisted open um­brel­las in the air - sym­bols that were rem­i­nis­cent of stu­dent-led pro-democ­racy demon­stra­tions in 2014 that blocked key Hong Kong streets and at­tracted global at­ten­tion. Hel­meted po­lice of­fi­cers with shields stood in sev­eral rows, cre­at­ing a block­ade against the pro­test­ers. “Open the road! Open the road!” the demon­stra­tors chanted, as po­lice warned them not to charge.

On­go­ing re­view

Demon­stra­tors held signs read­ing “De­fend the rule of law” and call­ing for the city’s Bei­jing­backed chief ex­ec­u­tive, Le­ung Chun-ying, to step down. Some said that if China’s top leg­isla­tive panel is­sued its own in­ter­pre­ta­tion on oath­tak­ing, it would ef­fec­tively un­der­mine a Hong Kong court’s on­go­ing re­view of the case.

“In (the) long run, that will dam­age our con­fi­dence in the court,” said Alvin Ye­ung, a leg­is­la­tor. “That will, in the long run, dam­age the in­ter­na­tional in­vestors’ (con­fi­dence) in Hong Kong’s sta­bil­ity and the rule of law, and of course how our court func­tions.” The leg­isla­tive panel in Bei­jing said the words and ac­tions of the two Hong Kong law­mak­ers - Six­tus Le­ung and Yau Waich­ing - “posed a grave threat to na­tional sovereignty and se­cu­rity,” Xin­hua re­ported.

If such a sit­u­a­tion were to per­sist, the Stand­ing Com­mit­tee said, it would hurt the in­ter­ests of Hong Kong’s res­i­dents and China’s progress. “The cen­tral gov­ern­ment can­not sit idly and do noth­ing,” it said. The state­ment fol­lowed dis­cus­sions by the com­mit­tee on is­su­ing an in­ter­pre­ta­tion of an ar­ti­cle in Hong Kong’s con­sti­tu­tion, known as the Ba­sic Law, that cov­ers oaths taken by law­mak­ers.

Le­ung, 30, and Yau, 25, who are from the rad­i­cal Young-spi­ra­tion party, al­tered their oaths to in­sert a dis­parag­ing Ja­panese term for China. Dis­play­ing a flag read­ing “Hong Kong is not China,” they vowed to de­fend the “Hong Kong na­tion.” Le­ung crossed his fin­gers, while Yau used the F-word in her pledge. Their oaths were ruled in­valid, but at­tempts at a do-over have re­sulted in may­hem in the leg­is­la­ture’s weekly ses­sions. Satur­day’s com­ments in­di­cated that the Stand­ing Com­mit­tee in­tended to use its in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the ar­ti­cle to send a strong mes­sage against sep­a­ratism - and could ul­ti­mately lead to the demo­crat­i­cally elected law­mak­ers’ dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion from of­fice. Such an out­come would be fa­vor­able to China’s Com­mu­nist lead­ers, who are alarmed by the for­mer Bri­tish colony’s bur­geon­ing in­de­pen­dence move­ment, but is also likely to plunge their trou­bled re­la­tion­ship into fresh tur­moil. Maria Tam, a Hong Kong deputy to the Na­tional Peo­ple’s Congress, told re­porters in Bei­jing on Satur­day that the Stand­ing Com­mit­tee has the “fi­nal say” on the dis­pute, and that Hong Kong’s high­est court would ac­cept the panel’s in­ter­pre­ta­tion as bind­ing.

HONG KONG: Pro­test­ers scuf­fle with po­lice of­fi­cers af­ter clashing as thou­sands of peo­ple march in the streets. — AP

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