Tue, 30 May 2023

First protest held in Hong Kong in years

Robert Besser
30 Mar 2023, 15:16 GMT+10

HONG KONG: Hong Kong's first authorized protest took place since the end of COVID-19 restrictions and under new strict security rules, including wearing a numbered badge around protesters' necks.

In recent years, protests have been rare due to COVID-19 restrictions, and many activists were silenced or jailed after Beijing imposed the national security law in 2019.

The city's freedom of assembly, which was promised Hong Kong when it was returned to China from Britain in 1997, has been eroded, critics stressed.

After the city scrapped its mask mandate and social distancing limits, demonstration were held this weekend against the proposed reclamation and construction of rubbish-processing facilities, the first police-approved demonstration of its kind.

However, police imposed strict requirements, such as limiting the number of participants to 100 people and demanding proof of a "reasonable excuse" from protesters, who wore masks during the protest.

During the 2019 anti-government protests, Hong Kong's government banned masks from public gatherings so it could identify protesters.

Organizers said some 80 people, who had to walk in a cordoned-off moving line in the rain amid heavy police presence, expressed their opposition to the plans for Tseung Kwan O, a residential and industrial area.

Theresa Wang, 70, said the new restrictions were "a bit weird," but said they were still acceptable since the city was adjusting to "the new Hong Kong."

"I am not happy but we have to accept it. We have to accept what is deemed legal now," she said, as quoted by the Associated Press.

The police also told organizers that there should be no acts that might endanger national security, including displaying anything seditious.

Organizer Cyrus Chan said officers told him that participants should not wear all-black outfits, which were commonly worn during the 2019 protests.

"It is definitely strict," he said, according to the Associated Press.

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