Police fired guns at protesters in Hong Kong on Sunday as hundreds took to the streets to protest against the postponement of general elections and a new national security law by China.
Hong Kong Chairwoman Carrie Lam postponed her seat on the Legislative Council of the Asian financial center on September 6 for a year in July as the number of coronavirus cases rose.
The move dealt a blow to the pro-democracy opposition, which was hoping for a historic majority in the council, where only half of the seats are directly elected and the other half appointed members who largely support Beijing.
“Today is supposedly our election day, we have to fight back in order to fight for our vote,” said a 70-year-old woman with the surname Wong as she marched with other demonstrators.
The poll would have been the former British colony’s first official vote since Beijing introduced new security laws in late June. The government insists that there was no political motive for the delay.
Thousands of police officers were stationed on the busy Kowloon Peninsula as protesters waved posters and sang popular anti-government slogans such as “Liberate Hong Kong”. These slogans are now banned under the new security law. Police said they had arrested at least 30 people for illegal gatherings, as noted on their Facebook page.
Several prominent activists were arrested during the demonstration, including Figo Chan, Vice-Convenor of the Civil Human Rights Front and former lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung, also known as “Long Hair”, according to a post on Chan’s Facebook page.
Anti-government demonstrations have declined this year, mainly due to restrictions on group meetings imposed to counter the spread of the coronavirus and the security law that punishes acts played by China as subversive, secessionist, terrorist, or with foreign forces.
Critics say the law aims to quell dissent in the city, while proponents say it will bring more stability after a year of often violent unrest against the government and against China.
Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under the guarantee of autonomy, but critics say the new law undermines that promise and puts the territory on a more authoritarian path.
Proponents of the law say it bridges national security loopholes created by the city’s inability to meet a constitutional requirement to pass such laws on its own.
While the street protests have largely lost momentum, sentiment against the government and against Beijing remains. China’s offer of mass coronavirus testing to Hong Kong residents calls for a public suspicious boycott.
Authorities have cited coronavirus fears of restricting gatherings, which are currently limited to two, and police have turned down protest motions in recent months.
Hong Kong has reported around 4,800 coronavirus cases since January, far fewer than other major cities around the world. The number of new infections every day has fallen significantly from the three-digit number in July to the current single-digit number.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and published from a syndicated feed.)