Police fired tear gas at the crowd less than an hour after the start of the march, which did not receive official approval, and the coronavirus went against the social distance ban, which banned more than eight people from attending the meeting. An online stream showed protesters throwing things at police.
Police in riot gear stormed a rally on Friday, removing hundreds of protesters by truck. Police in riot gear stormed a rally on Friday, removing hundreds of protesters by truck. Attempts to claim “health talk” allowed the march failed, and police quickly declared the protest illegal and ordered people to disperse.
Yet thousands of people marched and chanted slogans that became a familiar wasteland in the city during six months of anti-government unrest, including “Liberation War Hong Kong, the Revolution of Our Time.”
Some chanted “Hong Kong’s independence, the only way out” and others carried blue flags. Such activity may be illegal under the proposed protection law. Beijing has often expressed outrage at the separatist attitude in the city, which stands as a niche problem but gained impact during last year’s unrest.
Asked if he was concerned about the possible consequences of chanting such slogans, Messi Wong, 226, said he felt comfortable doing so because others were doing the same.
“Independence is Hong Kong’s long-term goal,” Wang said. “This may not be possible in the near future, but in the end this is what we want.”
China announced on Thursday that it plans to introduce a new national security law in Hong Kong – bypassing the city legislature – which is expected to ban sedition, secession and sectarianism against Beijing. This will enable, for the first time, mainland Chinese national security agencies to operate in the city.
The announcement sparked an immediate outcry from Hong Kong’s opposition lawmakers, human rights groups and several international governments.
The move by Beijing indicates even greater intervention in the city, which has been allowed to run its own affairs since the former British colony became a semi-autonomous region of China almost 20 years ago.
“This is the end of ‘one country, two systems,'” said pro-democracy lawyer Dennis Coke, referring to Hong Kong’s policy of limited democracy and civil liberties since the Chinese took control. “(They) are completely destroying Hong Kong.”
The move is likely to provoke further outrage and protests in the city, which has shaken the growing anti-government anti-violence movement for more than six months last year.
The protests centered on a proposed law that would allow the mainland to be handed over to China, but has been extended to call for an independent investigation into police brutality and greater democracy.
The law, which is expected to be passed by China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) later this month, will be introduced through a rarely used constitutional system in Hong Kong that will overtake the Hong Kong legislature.
The law will have a profound effect on Hong Kong’s wider society, ranging from the city’s political arena to media, education and international business.
The latest effort was joined by mass protests in 2003, after last year’s protests and the Hong Kong government’s failure to pass similar legislation after 17 years, Chinese officials and state media defended the law in favor of national security.
“National security is the key to a country’s stability. Protecting national security serves the fundamental interests of all Chinese people, including our HK people,” NPC spokesman Zhang Yesui told a news conference in Beijing on Thursday.
The biggest push after the handover
Hong Kong has always prided itself on following the rule of law, allowing a basic judiciary and civil liberties beyond the mainland China border.
These rights are enshrined in the Basic Law – the de facto constitution of the city – and are guaranteed (in theory) by an agreement between China and the United Kingdom when Hong Kong was handed over to Chinese rule in 1997. Hong Kong, unlike China, is also a part of various international treaties guaranteeing civil liberties.
The new law challenges all of this. By criminalizing such a wide range of definitions, they can follow the opposition of the city if it sees the authorities as appropriate.
China has used effective national security laws to target human rights activists, lawyers, journalists and pro-democracy campaigners. Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Jiabo, who died in 2017 after more than a decade in prison, was convicted of “inciting state power extremism.”
“The United States urges Beijing to reconsider its catastrophic proposal, to adhere to its international obligations, and to strongly respect Hong Kong’s higher autonomy, democratic institutions, and civil liberties, which are key to maintaining its special status under U.S. law,” he said. In the United States, “Hong Kong is with the people.”
CNN’s Sarah Fidel, Charmine Lee and Alexander Lynn contributed to the reporting.