Prior to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), Hong Kong was experiencing unprecedented protests – with occasionally millions rallying for what originally began as a stand against an extradition bill that would allow Hong Kongers to be prosecuted in mainland China.
Despite the bill being tabled, protests continued, leading to Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive saying earlier on this year that the city’s unique ‘one country, two systems’ status may continue beyond the year 2047.
Since the initial outbreak spread across mainland China – and soon after to Hong Kong and other parts of Asia – protests have died down. However, with the number of cases and deaths noticeably decreasing on the island, small rallies have begun and talks of protests have sparked once more.
On Wednesday, April 22, local police revealed that dozens of fines were handed out to protestors that had banded together at Yuen Long in the northwestern New Territories on Tuesday night. Pepper spray was also reportedly used on two men as a small crowd of 50 reportedly gathered in late March this year to mark the violent attack on anti-government protestors eight months prior at the Yuen Long Mass Transit Railway (MTR) train station.
Ralliers are reportedly pushing forward with a protest organized for May 1, defying police social distancing requirements that remain intact until at least May 7. The regulations that were introduced in late March include banning public gatherings of more than four people and shutting 11 types of social and entertainment venues.
According to the South China Morning Post, a senior police official has requested for both the pro-democracy HK Confederation of Trade Unions (CTU) and the pro-Beijing Federation of Trade Unions (FTU) to withdraw their protest applications. Talks of protests on June 4, marking the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989, as well as the annual July 1 march to mark the city’s 1997 handover to Beijing are also in the works.
A police source says they should not process protest applications until nearer the time and its handling would depend on the development of the pandemic. This, however, comes amid accusations that the police are abusing their power during this time.