HONG KONG (Reuters) – After a yr that noticed democracy advocates in Hong Kong jailed and ousted from public workplace, hundreds marched by means of the streets of Hong Kong on New Yr’s Day to warn China to not meddle additional within the metropolis’s affairs and undermine its autonomy.
Over the previous yr, Hong Kong, a former British colony which returned to Chinese language rule in 1997, has skilled what critics and professional-democracy activists describe as an intensifying assault on its autonomy by China’s Communist Celebration leaders.
That is regardless of Beijing’s guarantees to grant the town extensive-ranging freedoms together with an unbiased judiciary, underneath a so-referred to as “one nation, two techniques” framework.
In addition to the controversial jailing of a number of outstanding younger activists for illegal meeting over the huge 2014 “Occupy” professional-democracy protests, authorities additionally ejected six professional-democracy lawmakers from the legislature for failing to take correct oaths of workplace.
The town’s fame as considered one of Asia’s most strong authorized jurisdictions has additionally come underneath a cloud amidst accusations of a politicisation of sure authorized instances.
The protesters, who included many center-aged and aged residents, held up banners and chanted the march’s most important theme to “Shield Hong Kong” throughout a stroll of a number of kilometres to the town’s authorities headquarters.
Others decried an unprecedented transfer by China’s parliament final week that stated a part of a excessive-velocity railway station being inbuilt Hong Kong can be considered mainland territory ruled by mainland legal guidelines.
“We’re right here to inform the federal government that we’ll not surrender,” stated Joshua Wong, one of many democracy activists jailed final yr, however who’s now out on bail pending an attraction.
“We now have encountered many difficulties final yr, together with a few of us being sued and jailed, however we’ll stand with Hong Kong individuals. We’ll battle for the rule of regulation, struggle for Hong Kong, battle for the longer term, battle for the subsequent generations.”
Two protesters who dressed up as Individuals’s Liberation Military troopers stated they have been involved concerning the attain of China’s safety equipment. Others referred to as for full democracy as the one lasting means to safeguard the town’s lifestyle.
The organisers of the march stated some 10,000 individuals had confirmed up. Police, nevertheless, put the determine at 6,200.
The demonstration was largely peaceable, although some protesters who tried to later collect in a forecourt of the federal government’s headquarters skirmished briefly with safety guards.
The so-referred to as “Civic Sq.” was the place the 2014 professional-democracy protests first kicked off when a gaggle of protesters stormed over a fence and confronted off with native police.
Regardless of the defiance on present, some stated they feared Hong Kong would proceed to be squeezed by Beijing.
“Everybody’s doing what they will,” stated Andy Lau who was among the many marchers. “If we’ve got the fitting to show then we should always. However I‘m not feeling constructive. I feel issues will worsen.”
The Hong Kong authorities, in a press release, stated it “absolutely respects the correct of Hong Kong individuals to participate in processions and their freedom of expression”.
China’s chief Xi Jinping has stated that whereas Hong Kong enjoys a excessive diploma of autonomy underneath “one nation, two techniques”, Beijing nonetheless holds supreme authority over the town and gained’t tolerate any problem to its authority.
Further reporting by Chermaine Lee; Writing by James Pomfret; Modifying by Adrian Croft