HONG KONG | Tuesday marked the start a year ago of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, but on this anniversary day mobilization of a similar magnitude seemed unlikely.
In addition to the numerous arrests which dealt a serious blow to the movement, the measures taken to fight against the new coronavirus which prohibit any gathering of more than eight people as well as the imminence of the entry into force of the security law national.
Last year, June 9, 2019, a huge crowd took to the streets of the semi-autonomous territory to oppose a bill authorizing extraditions to mainland China.
That day marked the start of seven consecutive months of monster protests.
However, very quickly, clashes between the police and the demonstrators became frequent, dividing the population and seriously damaging the reputation of stability of the metropolis.
On Tuesday, during the lunch break, spontaneous demonstrations were organized in various shopping centers in the city. However, they only gathered a few hundred people.
“I will demonstrate as long as there are protests and I will sit down as long as there are rallies,” Ng, a 50-year-old trader, who travels regularly to China.
“I know how it goes there and I cannot accept that this type of system takes root in Hong Kong.”
The messaging forums used by the protest movement call on residents to mobilize Tuesday evening to mark this first anniversary.
Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam, who was appointed by Beijing but has the lowest popularity ratings, was on Tuesday assailed by journalists ’questions about the unrest.
“Hong Kong cannot afford such chaos,” she thundered, adding that all parties must “learn from it.”
Residents need to “prove that the Hong Kong people are reasonable and sensible 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 the territory unknown autonomy and freedoms on the continent until 2047, 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, which Beijing has always denied.
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.
The pro-democracy mobilization was born last year from the rejection of the extradition bill. If this text has since been withdrawn, the demonstrators have meanwhile widened their demands.
They called in particular for the establishment of a true universal suffrage and an independent investigation into the behavior of the police. All of these requests were turned down by the local executive and Beijing.
In response, China decided to pass a bill in Hong Kong to punish separatist, “terrorist” activities, subversion, or even foreign interference in the territory.
Beijing said the move affects “only a small minority” and will help restore confidence in the business community.
Opponents fear that it will lead to political repression in Hong Kong territory similar to that experienced in mainland China.
“First (Beijing) makes Hong Kong people lose their hearts and souls and then tries to make them loyal,” said Kong Tsung-gan, an activist who has written three books on the protest movement.
According to him, “a long-term battle” awaits the Hong Kongers who “will have to be ready to suffer and to sacrifice themselves even more than they have done so far”.
Since last year, some 9,000 people have been arrested in Hong Kong for taking part in the protests, and more than 500 have already accused of participating in riots, a crime punishable by up to ten years. imprisonment.