Hong Kong, Jun 27 (efe-epa).- Hong Kong Police announced on Saturday that the annual pro-democracy rally which takes place every year on 1 July has been banned for the first time in 17 years.
The protest rally has been taking place every year since the handover of Hong Kong in 1997. Hong Kong had been under British colonial rule until then when the control of the territory was handed back to the Chinese.
The 1 July rally this year took aim at China’s national security law which human rights groups fear could smother the semi-autonomous region’s freedoms.
China announced a draft national security law in May that would be imposed across its territory, including Hong Kong, to tackle “terrorism”, “separatism” “subversion of state power,” and foreign interference.
The sweeping bill, which would bypass Hong Kong’s legislature, would mean that mainland China would implant its national security apparatus to operate in the semi-autonomous region for the first time.
In a letter sent to the pro-democracy group Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF), authorities allege violent episodes have occurred in recent protests of this nature and that the march would put “pose a severe threat to public health” given the safety regulations in place to curb the coronavirus pandemic.
“Due to persisting social unrest, Hong Kong police have cautiously assessed the risks and believe that some participants of this public assembly and public procession may depart from the planned rally location and marching route and violently vandalise buildings as listed above,” the letter published by the CHRF on Facebook says.
Despite the fact demonstrations called by CHRF have been mostly peaceful, Hong Kong police said activists “may pose a severe threat to the safety of other participants, citizens, journalists and police officers and you do not have the capacity to control their acts.”
Authorities said the rally would exceed the rule in place to stem the spread of Covid-19 whereby gatherings have been limited to 50 people.
Since the pandemic struck police have repeatedly rejected applications to hold public assemblies including the 30 year-old commemoration to honour victims of the 1989 Tiananmen massacre.