Family members of some of the 12 Hong Kong residents who were detained in mainland China after they were caught trying to flee prosecution in August gather outside China's Liaison Office on Sept. 30 to petition for the return of the 12 to the territory. (Photo: AFP)
Authorities in Hong Kong have beefed up security after banning a pro-democracy group from holding an annual rally on China’ s National Day on Oct. 1.
The ban is the latest refusal in the semi-autonomous city state where authorities are gearing up for potential clashes despite prohibiting the rally.
“At least 3,000 officers will be on standby in case of protests,” AFP quoted an anonymous police source as saying.
Local media reported that more forces will be deployed depending on the risk factor.
The People’s Republic of China marks Oct. 1 as its founding anniversary with a holiday and choreographed celebrations. But in Hong Kong it has become a day of grievance against Beijing’s increased control over the former British colony.
Ahead of the ban, calls have been circulating on social media for people to join the Oct. 1 protest against the arrest of 12 Hong Kongers for illegally entering mainland Chinese waters.
They were picked up by police while fleeing via speedboat to Taiwan in August. Since then they have disappeared into mainland China’s opaque judicial system. They all have pending police cases linked to last year’s unrest.
On Sept. 28, the appeal board upheld a police ban for a march from Causeway Bay to Central by the Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF), the coalition which organized record-breaking protest rallies last year.
The board agreed that a march would put public health at risk due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
Though the CHRF pleaded that the march would adhere to all the preventive norms of Covid-19, the appeal board did not heed it.
“Police objected to the rally on the basis of public health, public security and protection of people’s freedom and rights,” Supt. Cheung Chi-wai told reporters on Sept. 28.
Covid-19 cases in Hong Kong have decreased over the last two weeks with daily new infections falling from three-digit figures in August. Hong Kong has reported 5,079 confirmed cases including 105 deaths.
Police also said the proposed route of the rally was close to “high-risk buildings” including police headquarters and the High Court.
The Security Bureau attached to the Hong Kong administration said it is aware that some people may take part in the rally “regardless of whether it is authorized or not, and advocate the use of violence.”
It warned that unauthorized assembly will be punished with a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment, while rioting will face a 10-year jail term.
CHRF organized one of the largest-ever protests in Hong Kong last year against a contentious extradition bill that drew millions to the streets and forced chief executive Carrie Lam to roll it back.
Since June, a sweeping national security law has been in force which criminalizes expressing certain opinions in the Asian financial hub.
Police have arrested several people under the security law, including media tycoon Jimmy Lai on Aug. 10.
On Sept 6, the day Hong Kong’s Legislative Council election was originally due to take place, more than 300 people were arrested for taking part in demonstrations.
Nearly 10,000 people have been rounded up over the past 16 months and courts are crammed with cases. Many prominent pro-democracy leaders, including Joshua Wong, face prosecution.
On Sept. 28 evening, nearly 20 persons assembled at the Pacific Place mall in Admiralty to mark the sixth anniversary of the Umbrella Movement by chanting anti-government slogans.
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