Conflicts & War

53 arrested in Hong Kong protests marking 1 year of unrest

Beijing, June 10 (efe-epa).- Hong Kong police arrested 53 people in the early hours of Wednesday during a protest to commemorate the first anniversary of the massive protests in the semi-autonomous city, and used pepper spray to disperse the crowd.

The 53, including 36 males and 17 females, were detained in Central for offenses including unlawful assembly and participating in unauthorized assembly, the police said in a statement.

“A large group of protesters gathered in Central last night. They blocked roads repeatedly and behaved in a disorderly manner (…) built barricades with miscellaneous objects, paralyzing the traffic. Police took dispersal action and directed protesters to leave the carriageways,” the statement said.

Some protesters did not follow warnings and “police conducted dispersal operation and deployed minimum necessary force including using pepper ball gun and pepper spray to stop the unlawful behavior.”

For more than a year, the situation in Hong Kong has been deteriorating due to the impact of pro-democracy protests on the economy of the semi-autonomous city where local GDP fell by 2.8 percent and 3 percent in the last two quarters of 2019, respectively, and 8.9 percent in the first quarter of 2020. The economic paralysis caused by the coronavirus pandemic has come on top of that.

The political situation in the former British colony is far from being resolved with governments in Beijing and Hong Kong unwilling to engage in dialog or make concessions.

The tensions have escalated with a renewed pro-democracy movement after the June 4 approval of a law criminalizing insults to the Chinese anthem, along with the passing of the national security bill by the Chinese government last month.

The aforementioned legal text seeks to “safeguard national security” amid much-feared “foreign interference,” which Beijing sees in the protests. It has been criticized by lawyers and activists who have warned that the legislation could curtail the freedoms enjoyed by the semi-autonomous city.

The 1984 Chinese-British declaration on Hong Kong laid the groundwork for the 1997 handover of the territory, under which China committed to respecting the city’s autonomy under the model known as “one country, two systems” for 50 years.

However, Chinese foreign ministry spokespersons have on numerous occasions claimed that the rights and obligations recognized in the agreement were already fulfilled at the time. EFE

jt/sk/tw

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