A few thousand protesters took to the streets of Hong Kong on Tuesday evening to mark the first anniversary of a historic protest movement in the former British colony, which is now struggling to mobilize crowds.
In addition to the numerous arrests which dealt a serious blow to the movement, the measures taken to combat the new coronavirus, which prohibit any gathering of more than eight people, as well as the imminence of the entry into force of the law on the national security.
Last year, June 9, 2019, a huge crowd took to the streets to oppose a bill to authorize extraditions to mainland China.
The day kicked off seven months of almost daily, often violent, protests to denounce Beijing’s interference in the affairs of this territory, which was theoretically semi-autonomous until 2047.
A year later, political tensions remain high in Hong Kong, but the scale of the protests is now limited due in particular to the size of the police deployed.
At least 25 arrests
Despite the ban on demonstrations, several thousand people took to the streets of Central, the financial heart of the semi-autonomous region, on Tuesday evening, where they chanted pro-democracy slogans.
Riot police were quick to intervene and used pepper spray to disperse the protesters. She made at least 25 arrests.
“We have had it,” said a 23-year-old protester who presented himself as Michael, “but we still have to take to the streets to make ourselves heard and tell the regime that we have not forgotten anything. “
During the day, the organizers of the huge demonstration on June 9, 2019 had called on the executive to lift the restrictions on assembly in a territory where there are almost no cases of local contamination.
“The persecution of the Chinese Communist Party has not stopped, in an attempt to force us to give up,” said Jimmy Sham, of the Civil Front for Human Rights, an organization that has always stood for non-violence. “This movement is not over,” he added.
But the chief executive of Hong Kong, Carrie Lam, appointed by Beijing and deeply unpopular, said again that the protests should stop.
“Hong Kong cannot afford such chaos,” she said, adding that all parties must “learn from it.”
Hong Kong people must prove that they are “reasonable citizens of the People’s Republic of China” if they want to maintain their freedoms and autonomy, Lam said.
The former British colony was returned to China in 1997 under an agreement that guaranteed until 2047 unknown autonomy and freedoms on the continent, on a “one country, two systems” basis.
Over the past decade, a protest movement has emerged, fueled by fears of an erosion of freedoms in this financial metropolis.
Experts say the Hong Kong opposition’s room for maneuver has shrunk since last year.
“I don’t think the anger has subsided much, but the problem is that many actions are no longer allowed under the current circumstances,” Leung Kai-chi, an analyst at the Chinese University of Hong, told AFP. Kong (CUHK).
“People are waiting for an opportunity, of course they want to demonstrate again … but they will not do it rashly,” said Francis Lee, head of the CUHK school of journalism.
In response to the dispute, China has decided to force through a security bill for Hong Kong which plans to punish separatist, “terrorist” activities, subversion, or even foreign interference in the territory.
Beijing has assured that this measure concerns “only a small minority” and that it will restore the confidence of the business community.
Opponents fear it will lead to political repression similar to that experienced in mainland China.
Since last year, 9,000 people have been arrested in Hong Kong for taking part in the protests.