National Post (Latest Edition)
Under pressure from tories, Liberals plan reset on China
Police throttle Hong Kong protests
HONG KONG • Thousands of police officers flooded onto Hong Kong’s streets Thursday, stopping and searching people en masse, to thwart demonstrations planned for China’s National Day over Beijing’s tightening control of the city.
The scenes underscored the government’s insistence in stopping any kind of protest, even peaceful, and showed the near impossibility of staging the massive street demonstrations that have been a part of Hong Kong’s unique civic life for years.
Officers were stationed on virtually every corner of the Causeway Bay shopping district, searching everyone from the young to the elderly. During the course of the afternoon, police cordoned off dozens of people, lined them up against the wall, handcuffed them and marched them away. By 6 p. m., police said they had arrested 69 people, including two local legislators known as district councilors.
Stopped from marching, groups of protesters and regular residents would break into chants popularized during street protests last year, including “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of our Times” while jeering at the police.
Others staged more subtle forms of protest, reading the pro- democracy Apple Daily newspaper — whose founder Jimmy Lai was arrested under the national security law — conspicuously in front of officers.
Police swooped in to surround any substantial gatherings, warning those chanting that they were in violation of the draconian new national security law. Passersby and protesters fled into the surrounding shops and malls.
The Civil Human Rights Front, a pro- democracy group that organized million- person marches last year, had asked Hong Kong police for authorization to hold a rally on National Day, which is typically marked by large pro-democracy marches. Its application was rejected, citing the pandemic and violence at previous marches.
Calls continued online, however, appealing for Hong Kong people to come out and push back against the Chinese Communist Party’s tightening rule and the swift erosion of the city’s once famous freedoms.
Last year, on the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong police for the first time shot a young protester, and fired more than a thousand rounds of tear gas across the city.
Ahead of Thursday’s planned march, Hong Kong police moved to proactively arrest at least five people who they alleged were inciting others to protest and commit arson — hoping to stave off the demonstrations. According to local media reports, more than 6,000 officers were deployed around the city, one of the largest showings of force since protests erupted last June.
Protesters also hoped to raise awareness of the plight of 12 Hong Kong activists, held incommunicado in mainland China. The 12 were intercepted by the Chinese Coast Guard while fleeing Hong Kong for Taiwan, hoping to seek refuge on the self-governing island.
All of them had been previously arrested in Hong Kong in connection with the pro-democracy protests, including one under the national security law. On Wednesday, they were formally arrested and prosecuted under Chinese law, moving them deeper into the opaque and politically influenced legal system on the mainland.
Beijing in late June made the stunning move of passing a national security law by fiat in hopes of suffocating street protests that had rocked Hong Kong for eight months until the pandemic hit.
The new law overrode all of the semi- autonomous city’s local procedures and greatly raised the stakes for protesting with the broadly worded crimes of “secession,” “subversion of state power,” “terrorism” and “foreign interference” to be punished by life in prison.
Hong Kong already has its own laws, including against unlawful assembly and rioting, that have been used to arrest some 10,000 protesters since last June.
In a speech marking the occasion, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam said it was “obvious to see that stability has been restored to society, while national security has been safeguarded.”