HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong police fired tear fuel and water cannon to disperse 1000’s of people that rallied on Sunday to protest in opposition to Beijing’s plan to impose nationwide security legal guidelines on the town.
In a return of the unrest that roiled Hong Kong final 12 months, crowds thronged the Causeway Bay procuring space in defiance of curbs imposed to comprise the coronavirus. Chants of “Hong Kong independence, the only way out,” echoed by means of the streets.
To Communist Party leaders, requires independence for the semi-autonmous metropolis are anathema and the proposed new nationwide security framework stresses Beijing’s intent “to prevent, stop and punish” such acts.
As nightfall fell, police and demonstrators confronted off within the nightlife district of Wan Chai.
The day’s occasions pose a brand new problem to Beijing’s authority as it struggles to tame public opposition to its tightening grip over Hong Kong, a commerce and enterprise gateway for mainland China.
The security legal guidelines have additionally frightened monetary markets and drawn a rebuke from international governments, human rights teams and a few enterprise lobbies.
“I am worried that after the implementation of the national security law, they will go after those being charged before and the police will be further out of control,” mentioned Twinnie, 16, a secondary college scholar who declined to give her final title.
“I am afraid of being arrested but I still need to come out and protest for the future of Hong Kong.”
The demonstrations come amid considerations over the destiny of the “one country, two systems” formulation that has ruled Hong Kong for the reason that former British colony’s return to Chinese rule in 1997. The association ensures the town broad freedoms not seen on the mainland, together with a free press and unbiased judiciary.
Washington mentioned on Sunday China’s proposed laws may lead to U.S. sanctions.
“It looks like, with this national security law, they’re going to basically take over Hong Kong and if they do … Secretary (of State Mike) Pompeo will likely be unable to certify that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy and if that happens there will be sanctions that will be imposed on Hong Kong and China,” National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien instructed NBC tv.
As the town authorities sought to give reassurances over the brand new legal guidelines, police performed stop-and-search operations in Causeway Bay and warned folks not to violate a ban on gatherings of greater than eight.
That restriction, imposed to comprise the unfold of coronavirus, has stored protesters largely off the streets in latest months.
Protesters arrange highway blocks and hurled umbrellas, water bottles and different objects, police mentioned, including that they responded with tear fuel and made greater than 120 arrests.
Many outlets and different companies closed early.
The scenes evoked reminiscences of final 12 months’s generally violent anti-government protests, which drew up to two million folks within the largest single protest.
“WE HAVE TO RESIST IT”
A small group of democracy activists protested exterior Beijing’s predominant consultant workplace within the metropolis, chanting: “National security law is destroying two systems.”
“In future they can arrest, lock up and silence anyone they want in the name of national security. We have to resist it,” protester Avery Ng of the League for Social Democrats instructed Reuters.
Nearly 200 political figures from all over the world mentioned in a press release the proposed legal guidelines had been a “comprehensive assault on the city’s autonomy, rule of law and fundamental freedoms”.
China has dismissed international complaints as “meddling,” and mentioned the proposed legal guidelines is not going to hurt Hong Kong’s autonomy or buyers.
Beijing’s high diplomat mentioned the proposed laws would goal a slender class of acts and would haven’t any affect on the town’s freedoms nor the pursuits of international companies.
Last 12 months’s anti-government protests plunged Hong Kong into its largest political disaster in a long time, battered the financial system, and posed the gravest widespread problem to President Xi Jinping since he got here to energy in 2012.
Reporting by James Pomfret, Jessie Pang, Donny Kwok, Twinnie Siu, Pak Yiu; Writing by Anne Marie Roantree; Editing by John Stonestreet and Angus MacSwan