Police have fired tear gas and deployed water cannon and armoured trucks as thousands of demonstrators turned out to reject Beijing’s latest plan. The protests are the biggest flare-up since Hong Kong’s COVID-19 lockdown.
Hong Kong police fired tear gas on Sunday to disperse anti-government protesters as thousands took to the streets to oppose Beijing’s proposal to impose new security laws on the city.
Black-clad protesters were seen chanting pro-democracy slogans in the city’s busy shopping districts of Causeway Bay and Wan Chai, demanding “Liberate Hong Kong,” “Stand with Hong Kong” and “Revolution of our times.”
Police fired tear gas after they had warned the crowds with loudspeakers that large gatherings were unlawful amid the coronavirus pandemic and that they should disperse.
Close to 20 to 30 people were reportedly arrested at a yacht party. pic.twitter.com/EzlVSzdiMF— William Yang (@WilliamYang120) May 24, 2020
The unrest comes two days after Beijing unveiled proposals to strengthen “enforcement mechanisms” in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory. Many Hong Kongers view the new proposed national security law as an additional threat to civil liberties and the end of the “one country, two systems” principle.
China’s proposed security law: A death sentence for Hong Kong?
Following Beijing’s surprise plan to enact a national security law for Hong Kong on Thursday, China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) announced more details about the proposed legislation on Friday morning.
Explaining details of the draft legislation to the delegates, Wang Chen, the vice chairman of NPC’s Standing Committee, said there have been increasing national security risks in Hong Kong over the last year, citing certain activities linked to the months-long anti-government protests as incidents that seriously challenge the fundamentals of the “one country, two systems” principle and threaten national security and development interests.
“Law-based and forceful measures must be taken to prevent, stop and punish such activities,” Wang said. “Considering Hong Kong’s present situation, efforts must be made at the state-level to establish and improve the legal system and enforcement mechanisms for the HKSAR (Hong Kong Special Administrative Region) to safeguard national security, to change the long-term ‘defenseless’ status in the field of national security.”
The proposed legislation will be directly applied to Hong Kong and will also allow the Chinese government to establish national security agencies in Hong Kong. The city may also set up a dedicated agency for national security. Additionally, Hong Kong’s chief executive needs to promote national security education and submit relevant reports to the central government regularly.
The proposed legislation also urged Hong Kong to complete the passage of its own national security legislation in accordance with the Basic Law. Lastly, administrative, legislative and judicial institutions in Hong Kong should curb and punish acts deemed harmful to national security.