National Post (Latest Edition)

Under pressure from tories, Liberals plan reset on China

Police throttle Hong Kong protests

- Shibani Mahtani

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.”

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 ?? Reut ers ; JEROME FAVRE / EPA ?? Thousands of citizens attend a flash mob to celebrate the National Day of the People’s Republic of China in Shenyang
City Thursday, while police deployed 6,000 officers to counter any illegal rallies or activities in Hong Kong.
Reut ers ; JEROME FAVRE / EPA Thousands of citizens attend a flash mob to celebrate the National Day of the People’s Republic of China in Shenyang City Thursday, while police deployed 6,000 officers to counter any illegal rallies or activities in Hong Kong.

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