- The Hong Kong police employed the use of pepper spray to disperse the pro-democracy protesters in a commercial neighborhood in the city.
- On Friday, Beijing had announced its intentions to impose new national security legislation in the autonomous territory.
- Messages of criticism aimed at Beijing have multiplied on social media since last night.
Hong Kong was today treated to a fresh round of violent protests as hundreds demonstrated against a controversial new bill that is in its advanced stages of implementation. The law criminalizes insulting China’s national anthem, punishable by up to three years in jail.
The Hong Kong police employed the use of pepper spray to disperse the pro-democracy protesters in a commercial neighborhood in the city. Protesters gathered just before the start of the debate on a bill against dissent that could increase China’s interference in the autonomous territory.
Protesters gathered at noon, and were dispersed by security forces. The local police have adopted a zero-tolerance policy against the demonstrations, while the island is still recovering from the coronavirus pandemic. The pro-democracy movement insists that the measure violates freedom of expression.
The protesters didn’t disappoint. Today, they came out in their thousands shouting pro-democracy slogans and insulting the police guarding the legislative building as the bill was being debated by lawmakers in the semiautonomous Special Administrative Region.
Following today’s demonstrations, around 300 people were arrested across Hong Kong, thanks to the massive police presence and the zero tolerance approach that was employed. In addition to tear gas, police fired pepper pellets at protesters as a quick way of containing any potential unrest.
On Friday, Beijing had announced its intentions to impose new national security legislation in the autonomous territory. The law that China is preparing to pass is designed to prevent “sedition, subversion, secession and treason,” as well as external forces from meddling in Hong Kong.
Beijing also says the law will “prevent, stop and punish” any possible protests similar to the ones Hong Kong saw last year. What’s more, the bill will allow Beijing to establish security agencies on the territory.
The current leader of the Hong Kong SAR, Carrie Lam, supported the new law through a statement, announcing that she will cooperate with Beijing to promulgate it “as soon as possible.”
Last year’s pro-democracy demonstrations in the former British colony deeply irritated Beijing, and opened up another front in the long-running dispute with the United States. The crisis could now rekindle.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called the proposed bill “a death knell” for the freedoms enjoyed by Hong Kong, thanks to the Basic Law, the Fundamental Law with which Beijing regulates its relationship with the Special Administrative Region.
The US Protests
From Sen. Romney (R-UT) to President Obama’s former adviser Susan Rice, a bi-partisan chorus has risen in the United States in defense of Hong Kong, and in condemnation of China. Messages of criticism aimed at Beijing have multiplied on social media since last night, following the decision to tighten the laws that foresee the arrest in the autonomous region of anyone accused of “betraying China.”
“The CCP’s campaign of brutal repression and censorship continues—now using the COVID-19 crisis as ‘cover’ as it works to overturn Hong Kong’s independence. I stand with the people of Hong Kong in the continued quest for freedom and autonomy.
“China is obliterating what’s left of Hong Kong’s democracy. And what has Trump said or done? Crickets. Leaves it to his boy [Sec. Pompeo]. Again Trump proves he’s weak and scared of Beijing.”