HONG KONG • Police in Hong Kong yesterday said they had arrested 43 people involved in illegal assemblies and violent acts on Friday, when the city marked the one-year anniversary of major clashes between police and pro-democracy demonstrators.
Thousands of people sang a popular protest anthem and chanted slogans across the city on Friday night. They gathered in various places, including Causeway Bay, Yuen Long, Mong Kok and Kwun Tong.
Some threw hard objects from a height, targeting police officers.
Riot police declared the gatherings unlawful assemblies as well as a breach of bans on public gatherings – imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus – and sent snatch squads to make arrests.
The protest movement kicked off on June 9 last year with a huge march against an unpopular Bill, now withdrawn, that would have allowed extraditions to the Chinese mainland.
Three days after that, the first sustained clashes broke out between protesters and riot police who fired tear gas outside the legislature.
Such scenes became a weekly, and at times daily, occurrence over the next seven months as Hong Kong was upended by unprecedented unrest fuelled by fears that Beijing was eroding the semi-autonomous city’s limited freedoms.
Hong Kong enjoys liberties unseen on the mainland as part of the “one country, two systems” deal made when Britain handed it back to China in 1997.
On Friday, thousands answered online calls to gather at 8pm in various places to chant pro-democracy slogans and sing Glory To Hong Kong – a protest anthem.
“I came here because our goals have not been achieved, so I have to continue coming out,” a 28-year-old social worker, who said his surname was So, told Agence France-Presse in Causeway Bay shopping district. “We have to tell the government that we won’t give up, no matter how many of us are left.”
Police said 28 men and 15 women were arrested for offences that included unlawful assembly, disorderly conduct in a public place and possession of offensive weapons.
Demonstrators want an inquiry into police brutality, an amnesty for the roughly 9,000 people arrested over the protests, and universal suffrage. China has refused and portrayed the protests as a foreign plot to destabilise the mainland.
Last month, Beijing unveiled plans to impose a new national security law on Hong Kong targeting subversion, secession, terrorism and foreign interference.
Critics fear it will bring mainland-style political oppression to a city supposedly guaranteed freedoms and autonomy for 50 years after its handover.
XINHUA, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE