What happened in Hong Kong on China’s National Day that led to dozens of arrests?

What happened in Hong Kong on China’s National Day that led to dozens of arrests?
Source: Reuters, Bobby Yip
The event turned into yet another day of high voltage confrontation between the Hong Kong police and democracy supporters in the region

China’s National Day on Thursday, October 1, ended up being a day of commotion in Hong Kong as dozens of pro-democracy protesters were arrested.

According to the Hong Kong police, more than 60 people were held for allegedly disobeying a protest ban and participating in unauthorized assemblies, as Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam and several senior mainland officials attended the official National Day celebrations.

The Hong Kong riot police reportedly warned protesters who had gathered in the bustling shopping district of Causeway Bay and were allegedly shouting anti-government slogans. The police also claimed that two unidentified men had thrown petrol bombs to disrupt traffic in another part of the city.

Before the National Day ceremony, protesters were denied permission to hold a march. Stop-and-search operations were conducted in areas where the police anticipated trouble. More than 6,000 police officers were reportedly deployed as a crowd-control measure in case protests erupted on Thursday.

Hailing Beijing’s new national security law and claiming that normalcy had been restored in Hong Kong, Carrie Lam said, “Over the past few months, an indisputable fact in front of everyone is that our society has returned to peace. Our country’s national security has been protected in Hong Kong and our citizens can again exercise their rights and liberties in accordance with laws.”

“No matter how severe some foreign governments, holding ‘double-standards,’ are going to level unjustified accusations against the authorities in charge of implementing the National Security Law, or aggressively imposing the so-called sanctions … I and my relevant colleagues will continue to discharge our duty to safeguard national security in accordance with the law without fear or anxiety,” Lam added.

Lam is one of the senior officials sanctioned by the United States. She is barred from entering the country and has her US-related assets under scrutiny.

Referring to the pro-democracy movement that started in Hong Kong last year, an elderly protester was quoted saying, “Hong Kong people know that China will swallow up Hong Kong in 2047, but now it is only 2020, we should still have some 20 years of freedom and this is what we fight for.”

“The government doesn’t listen even when millions of people take to the street. Are all these people wrong? If Beijing doesn’t budge due to pressure by foreign countries, this is the end of Hong Kong," the protester added.

Another protester said, “It’s China’s national day but this is Hong Kong’s death day. Hong Kong people are under a lot of pressure but we have to try and keep fighting for freedom.”

Accusing the government of cracking down on dissenters, a young protester said, “I don’t think protesting is an effective way to express my opinion, because the government tries every method to suppress protests.”

Several protest requests have been turned down in many districts in recent months. The Civil Human Rights Front that organized many rallies last year was denied permission to hold a march on China’s National Day by the Hong Kong police, citing the COVID-19 pandemic and violence at previous protest marches.

On September 30, one of Hong Kong’s popular pro-democracy activists Joshua Wong said, “Even if they try to arrest us, prosecute us and lock us up in prison there is no reason for us to surrender.”

Recently, the Hong Kong government postponed the legislative council elections by a year that were due to take place in September. The pro-democracy candidates were expected to perform well in these elections, as per many political experts.

Veteran activist Leung Kwok-hung, also known as “Long Hair,” of the League of Social Democrats – a social-democratic party, was seen on the National Day with his party members holding a banner reading, “There is no national day celebration, only national mourning.”

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong government felicitated a number of police officers for effectively handling the protests that have swept across the region since last year. Hong Kong’s public service broadcaster Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) reported that a total of 687 awards were given out, almost double the number of awards compared to 2019. Bravery medals were presented to more than 10 officers for handling – in the words of the authorities – “ferocious assaults” by “rioters”.

More than 10,000 people have reportedly been detained by the Hong Kong police since 2019 for agitating against the government.

In July, China introduced a controversial national security law in Hong Kong with an immediate aim to curb pro-democracy protests in the region. The Hong Kong police have received widespread criticism for allegedly using forceful means to disperse protestors and attacking journalists covering the protests.

Last week, the Hong Kong police introduced curbs on press freedom by announcing that the credentials of certain news outlets and journalists would no longer be recognized. This has led to fear among media personnel in the region of state-backed prosecution against them over simply quoting or photographing independence slogans from protestors.

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