Jackie Chen, Hongkong & Wang Xiaofeng, Beijing for Easternlink
Police on Sunday lobbed tear gas shells and splashed with water cannons tens of thousands of Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters opposing a controversial security law proposed by China.
The city is tense and more protests are likely after the Sunday clashes, easily the most fierce confrontation in several months.
As protestors and police confronted each other in some areas of the semi-autonomous financial hub, Chinese Foreign
Minister Wang Yi threatened to impose the proposed law “without the slightest delay”,
That signalled a unanimous resolve to quell the protests ruthlessly as China’s National Peoples Congress goes intosession with the looming C-Virus crisis having out the country in a global tight spot.
The planned legislation seeking to ban treason, subversion and sedition comes after Hong Kong
was rocked last year by months of massive protests, frequently violent and spiralling, amid Beijing’srepeated warnings that ‘forceful dissent backed by anti-China imperialist forces ‘ would not be tolerated.
A Chinese Communist Party (CPC) politbureau member told Easternlink on condition of anonymity that Beijing saw the protests in Hongkong as partof the “larger plan to destabilise our great nation” alongside the US-inspired global human rights campaign onthe Uighurs in Xinjiang and Tibet and the Trump campaigns to blame China for the C-virus pandemic.
“The imperialist plan is to rock our economy, isolate us diplomatically, ruin our global prestige, thwart our Belt&Road Initiative (BRI) ,and create tensions on our borders,” the CPC PB member said but on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media.
Chinese ministers and party leaders rarely interact with the media directly, leaving the job strictly to officially appointed spokespersons and diplomats, themore aggressive ones of whom have been labeled as “wolf diplomats” in recent weeks.
But Foreign Minister Wang Yi has already said the US was driving China to “the brink of a new Cold War”.
But pro-democracy leaders in Hong Kong warned that Beijing’s invoking the ‘foreign hand’ was indeed a ployto defame the movement. One of them , again wishing to remain anonymous fearing arrest on identification, said “HongKongers treasure their freedom under the one country, two systems and the fight now was to preserveit rather than let the CPC snatch it away in the name of greater integration.”
Easterlink’s Jackie Chen , walking alongside the thousands of protesters chanting “Save our Freedom” slogans in the busy Causeway Bay and Wan Chai districts, also found some masked protesters set up hastily-setup barricades to stop onrushing police vehicles.
“Why are we treated as criminals for peaceful protests. We are not fighting, just shouting slogans and speaking to media,”said a protest leader just saying his name was “Big Boss.”
” I think Hong Kongers are very angry because they did not expect this law to come so quickly and that it would be so rough,””Big Boss” told Easternlink.
” But don’t think we are fools to believe Beijing will simply sit back and do nothing. Things will only
get worse here once the CPC NPC session is over and the leadership have finalised plans for a crackdown,” “Big Boss ” said.
Riot police were deployed after protesters ignored earlier warnings from authorities against
unauthorised assembly and violated the city’s current C-virus law banning public gatherings
of more than eight people.
As the number of protesters swelled, police fired tear gas and pepper spray to try and disperse the
crowd, and later moved in water cannons and armoured vehicles against pockets where protestershad gathered..
At least 180 people were arrested, police said, the majority in Causeway Bay and Wan Chai districts.
Other protesters were detained at a smaller demonstration in Tsim Sha Tsui.
The Hong Kong government condemned the “extremely violent and illegal acts,” of the protesters and
said they reinforced “need and urgency of the legislation on national security.”.
It also accused protesters of injuring at least four police officers.
The scenes on Sunday were the most intense in months.
The Hong Kong pro-democracy movement had fizzled at the beginning of 2020 with mounting arrests , but the realturning point was the pandemic that led to strict social distancing norms against public gatherings being imposed.
“But the protests on Sunday prove the anger is simmering and the Chinese authorities for the provocation nowby bringing in a such a tough law ,” said an Western academic at the Hongkong university .
But he was unwilling to be named fearing attacks by what he described as “Beijing-backed goons.”
More than 8,300 people have been arrested since the protests erupted last year. Around 200 were
detained during small rallies at malls on Mother’s Day earlier this month.
Hong Kong residents enjoy rights — including freedom of speech — unseen on the Chinese mainland, as
well as its own legal system and trade status., says AFP.
Fears had been growing for years that Beijing was chipping away at those freedoms and tightening its
control on the city, and campaigners have described the new proposal as the most brazen move yet.
Of particular concern is a provision allowing Chinese security agents to operate in Hong Kong, and that
they could launch a crackdown against those opposing the mainland’s communist rulers.
“I’m very scared, but I still have to come out,” AFP quoted protester Christy Chan, 23.
“Aside from being peaceful, rational and non-violent, I don’t see many ways to send out our messages.”
Despite the alarm in Hong Kong and in some Western capitals, Chinese and city officials have insisted
the proposed law is needed to prevent unrest and protect national security.
But a top pro-Beijing official dismissed as ‘rumours’ on Saturday the claims that mainland Chinese law enforcement would operate in
the city without “approval ” of local authorities.
But there is deep mistrust of China’s opaque legal system in Hong Kong and of how Beijing might use the
proposed regulations in the city.
The massive protests last year were sparked by a now-scrapped bill that would have allowed
extraditions to the mainland, and there are fears the new motion would be even more wide-ranging.
China's legislature is expected to rubber-stamp the draft resolution on Thursday, before the details are
fleshed out at another meeting at a later date.
Officials have said the law would then be implemented locally.
(with additional reporting by AFP)