Hong Kong police fire teargas at protesters opposed to Chinese intervention

Kate Ng
Sunday 24 May 2020 16:53
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Scuffles break out between Hong Kong legislators over security freedoms

Police in Hong Kong have fired volleys of teargas and used a water cannon on pro-democracy protesters, thousands of whom took to the streets of a popular shopping district on Sunday to protest against Beijing’s proposed national security legislation for the city.

Crowds of protesters dressed in black gathered in Causeway Bay to demonstrate against the legislation, which has been criticised as going against the “one country, two systems” framework that promises Hong Kong certain freedoms not available on the mainland.

The proposal would enact a national security law that bans secessionist and subversive activity, as well as foreign interference and terrorism in Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous territory.

Demonstrators rallied in the district hours after Chinese vice premier Han Zheng told a Hong Kong delegation not to “underestimate Beijing’s determination” to implement the legislation, the South China Morning Post reported.

“When the decision is made, we will implement it till the end,” Mr Han was quoted by the delegation’s deputy convenor Wong Yuk-shan as saying. “Han stressed that the move was made after careful deliberation, taking into account the long-term interests of Hong Kong, and more importantly, of the state and the nation.”

The protest was a continuation of a months-long pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong that began last year and has at times descended into violence between police and protesters. Slogans including “Stand with Hong Kong”, “Liberate Hong Kong”, and “Revolution of our times” were chanted in the streets on Sunday.

In a Facebook post, police said at least 120 people had been arrested by 4.30pm HKT, including some 40 people who reportedly set up roadblocks.

In another post, they said protesters threw bricks and splashed officers with an unidentified liquid. At least four members of the police media liaison team were injured in the clashes, said the force, who warned that such behaviour was against the law and police would pursue the matter.

Earlier in the afternoon, activist Tam Tak-chi was arrested during the protest for what police said was unauthorised assembly. Mr Tam, who is the vice president of democratic political coalition People Power, said he was giving a “health talk” and was exempt from social distancing measures that prohibit gatherings of more than eight people.

China’s proposed legislation was met with criticism, with at least 204 international lawmakers and policymakers signing a statement decrying it.

The coalition, led by Chris Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong before its handover to China, called the legislation a “flagrant breach” of the Sino-British Joint Declaration.

The declaration is a treaty signed in 1984 promising Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy even after the city state was handed over to China in 1997.

The UK, Australia and Canada also released a joint statement on Friday to express their concern around the proposals.

“Making such a law on Hong Kong’s behalf without the direct participation of its people, legislature or judiciary would clearly undermine the principle of ‘one country, two systems’, under which Hong Kong is guaranteed a high degree of autonomy,” said foreign secretary Dominic Raab, alongside Australian foreign minister Marise Payne and Canadian foreign minister Francois-Philippe Champagne.

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi said on Sunday at an annual news conference during the legislative session that Hong Kong affairs were an internal matter for China, and “no external interference will be tolerated”.

“Excessive unlawful foreign meddling in Hong Kong affairs has placed China’s national security in serious jeopardy,” he said.

“[The proposed legislation] does not affect the rights and freedoms enjoyed by Hong Kong residents. And it does not affect the legitimate rights and interests of foreign investors in Hong Kong.”

Additional reporting by agencies

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