Hong Kong, Oct 1 (efe-epa).- Hong Kong deployed thousands of security personnel across the city for China’s National Day on Thursday to quell potential unrest as pro-democracy activists in the former British colony held a large demonstration that has been banned by authorities.
Public broadcaster RTHK said that up to 6,000 officers were prepared to “quickly stamp out any signs of trouble at the earliest opportunity”, adding that riot police were patrolling busy shopping areas and “stopping and searching mostly young people.”
Police said they had arrested at least 60 people for unauthorized assembly.
Security forces have also dispersed small groups of demonstrators and even told a man who was waving a US flag to leave the area, while another man was seen waving the flag of India, which was recently involved in a violent clash along its Himalayan border with China.
Police officers warned the mostly young protesters in central Causeway Bay that they were breaking the law, after some marchers began chanting the anti-government slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times,” a slogan which could be interpreted as an act of secession or subversion.
Students and young people are at the forefront of the movement calling for greater democratic freedoms and more independence from Beijing which saw hundreds of thousands of protesters take to the streets in often violent clashes throughout the second half of 2019. The protests were suspended with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
To quell any further unrest, in June this year Beijing passed the controversial Hong Kong Security Law, which criminalizes a range of acts deemed secessionist or subversive by the central government.
Critics say the law seriously undermines people’s basic liberties in Hong Kong, such as freedoms of speech and assembly. Beijing says the law is needed to restore stability to the city.
While the pro-democracy rally, called by the Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF), was banned, small groups of pro-Beijing demonstrators were allowed to gather to mark China’s National Day.
During a speech to mark the nationwide holiday, Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam praised the effect the law had had in restoring stability to the city after months of street protests.
““The indisputable truth (…) is that stability has been restored in Hong Kong. National security is being protected in the SAR, and people can once again enjoy their basic rights and freedoms”, she said.
Amid widespread condemnation from mostly western nations on the suppression of democratic freedoms in Hong Kong, Lam attacked foreign governments “that hold double standards” or “belligerently impose further so-called sanctions against Hong Kong officials”. EFE-EPA