Scores of activists held in Hong Kong swoop as protests return
Marchers demonstrate mainly against a delay in the financial hub’s legislative council election
Hong Kong police arrested scores of people including key activists as protests again flared on the city’s streets on Sunday after weeks of relative calm since the implementation of a national security law.
At least 90 people were arrested on charges including illegal assembly, disorderly conduct, obstructing and assaulting police, according to the authority. More than 20 people were also fined for violating social-distancing rules.
Protesters marched through the Kowloon area and blocked a city street with barricades chanting prodemocracy slogans and holding up placards in defiance of social-distancing restrictions. Their main thrust was to protest the delay in Hong Kong’s Legislative Council election, which was scheduled to take place on Sunday but was delayed by a year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Organisers also demanded “no national security law” and “no health code” ahead of the protest.
Prominent pro-democracy activists of the League of Social Democrats Figo Chan, Raphael Wong and Leung Kwok-hung were arrested, according to a Facebook post by the group. A video posted on their Facebook page appeared to show the three being taken away by police in a van.
The trio “were accused by the police of leading more than 30 people to gather, were escorted into a police car and taken back to the police station for arrest”, according to a translated Facebook post.
When reached by phone, police didn’t immediately confirm the arrests.
Hong Kong police also arrested a 47-year-old man on Sunday for “uttering seditious words” between the end of June and August. Local media reported pro-democracy activist Tam Tak Chi was arrested by police.
The government on Sunday condemned the protests, calling them “unlawful” and “selfish” as they threaten public health. It said independence slogans might be in violation of the security law, and defended the decision to delay the election, warning that the pandemic may persist.
Organisers had initially promised to go ahead with the protest if more than 20,000 voted to participate in an informal online poll. Earlier on Sunday, the poll showed just under half of about 14,000 votes cast were in favour of participating, with another 35% considering going and 18% not attending.
Protests have been muted since Beijing imposed a security law on the city in late June.
Officials are starting to ease some social-distancing measures as an outbreak in the city has subsided, but gatherings of more than two people are still banned.
Clashes between protesters and police were frequent in last year’s political unrest that dragged Hong Kong’s economy into a recession. The coronavirus has since continued to weigh on the economy of the financial hub.
Tension is rising amid plans by the city to institute a health code that would allow travel between Hong Kong and nearby cities in mainland China that has raised ethical concerns among medical professionals and fears over increased surveillance among activists.
The government defended the health code on Sunday, saying it would facilitate cross-border travel and boost economic activities. The measure had no tracking capabilities and complied fully with privacy guidelines, it said.
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