Police ban rally for fear of more violence and chaos as HK braces for citywide protests at weekend

14-Sep-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Hong Kong police have banned a mass rally and march planned for Sunday, the second time organiser the Civil Human Rights Front has been denied permission to hold an anti-government protest over fears of violence and chaos.

The objection, on the grounds there had been “chaos”, “violence”, “road blockages” and “destruction” after previous marches organised by the front, came as Hong Kong braced for citywide protests on Friday. Demonstrators planned to gather in major public parks and climb the iconic Lion Rock and Victoria Peak for “alternative” Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations.

The MTR Corporation confirmed on Thursday it would not provide overnight services on Friday as usual for the popular festival and that all stations would close at normal times, although train frequencies would be stepped up from 3pm to cope with the increased flow of passengers.

Protests were also planned for Wong Tai Sin, Kwun Tong, Tuen Mun, Tin Shui Wai and Sai Wan Ho on Saturday, with another bid to jam traffic to the airport also reportedly being plotted.

The front will file an appeal against the police objection.

In a letter to the front, police cited heightened safety concerns after weeks of demonstrations, saying protesters had committed violent acts, including starting fires, throwing petrol bombs, bricks and steel bars and destroying public property.

In a first for the front, police also banned its march and rally on August 31, giving similar reasons. Police have banned a number of protests in recent weeks, although many went ahead regardless.

Huge crowds defied the ban on August 31, filling the streets of Hong Kong Island. The day was later marred by violence as mobs started fires and hurled petrol bombs at police, who, in turn, used water cannons and multiple rounds of tear gas. There were also clashes at Prince Edward MTR station.

Hong Kong has been gripped by 14 weeks of protests, triggered by the now-shelved extradition bill. Beijing has accused protesters of terrorism, colluding with foreign forces and fomenting a “colour revolution” against Chinese rule.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor backed down and announced a full withdrawal of the bill earlier this month but failed to pacify protesters, who have pressed on with other demands, including an independent inquiry into police actions during protests and universal suffrage.

Should the front’s appeal be shot down, police said they would make a public announcement to ensure people knew joining the unauthorised protest might entail legal consequences.

Acting assistant district commander of Central Kwok Chun-kit said police would have manpower reserves in “strategic locations” on Sunday. “If there is any public disorder, violent act… police can then take resolute action to restore public order.”

He added police could not give the green light to protests if the organisers could not take effective measures to ensure the events would be conducted in a peaceful manner.

The front, an umbrella organisation of pro-democracy groups, has organised massive protests this summer, including the June 9 and 16 marches on Hong Kong Island which had estimated turnouts of one million and two million respectively. On August 18, an estimated 1.7 million people joined its rally at Victoria Park.

Front vice-convenor Bonnie Leung Wing-man said: “The police ban on Sunday’s march cannot scare away people. It will only make moderate people angry and some may resort to more radical means.”

Earlier on Thursday, hundreds of pro-Beijing supporters confronted anti-government protesters at the IFC shopping mall in Central, as they took on each other with songs, slogans and heated arguments.

Both sides attempted to outsing each other. One camp waved the national flag and sang the Chinese anthem. The other side sang Glory to Hong Kong the latest theme song of the protest movement, regarded by activists as the city’s “national anthem”.

As the tones rose, so did tempers. Heated arguments broke out and minor scuffles followed.

The crowds eventually left.

Wes Chan, a 24-year-old office worker in the IFC, said he did not think rallies and counterprotests would lead to more violence. “We shared our views freely and peacefully,” Chan said.

The mall was also one of the major sites chosen by protesters for their “singing protests” on Thursday night. The crowds sang Glory to Hong Kong and also chanted anti-government or anti-police slogans.

About 2,000 protesters followed suit at Times Square mall in Causeway Bay, while another 1,000 swamped APM mall in Kwun Tong. Similar protests were staged at Yoho mall in Yuen Long, Maritime Square on Tsing Yi and Dragon Centre in Sham Shui Po, among others.

It was part of a series of singing protests that kicked off this week when crowds gathered at big malls across the city. The assemblies were peaceful, albeit noisy.



Category: Hong Kong

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