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China urges Hong Kong to punish demonstrators who break the law

Sunday will mark the return of mass protests organized by the Civil Human Rights Front

Bloomberg 

Hong Kong: Police fire tear gas into a crowd in Wong Tai Sin district in Hong Kong on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019 | AP/PTI
FILE PHOTO: Police fire tear gas into a crowd in Wong Tai Sin district in Hong Kong on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019 | AP/PTI

China urged to punish demonstrators who break the law as thousands of teachers added their voices to the city’s growing protest movement and marched to the chief executive’s residence Saturday.

Protesters who have broken laws must be punished accordingly, You Wenze, spokesman for China’s National People’s Congress Foreign Affairs Committee, said in an interview with state TV Saturday.

The protests started in early June against a bill easing extraditions to the mainland, and have since morphed into a broader stand against China’s rule over the financial hub. Earlier this week, demonstrators massed at the city’s airport, forcing its closure. The social unrest shows no signs of abating: China continues to back leader Carrie Lam and protesters are still sticking to their demands, which include her resignation.

The main rally on Sunday in the city center will be organized by a group that has drawn some of the biggest numbers during the demonstrations. It will be a test of the movement’s ability to sustain itself, particularly after protesters detained and beat two mainland citizens at the airport -- a move that risked hurting their support among the broader public.

Here’s the latest (all times local):

Pro-China rally (Saturday 5 p.m.)

Tens of thousands joined a pro-government rally in Tamar Park, Admiralty, filling the space adjacent to the central government offices. “Support the motherland, support one country two systems; anti-violence, save Hong Kong,” they chanted. Organizers are estimating the crowd size at 476,000, according to broadcaster TVB.

China calls for punishment (Saturday 4.30 p.m.)

Some protesters have challenged the one-China principle, and they must be punished accordingly, You said.

“There’s no majesty in laws if breaking laws can go unpunished,” said You, whose committee is a panel of China’s legislature that crafted the Basic Law of -- its mini constitution.

Pro-China crowd in Sydney (Saturday 2:30 p.m.)

As people protest in Hong Kong, they are or will be joined by demonstrations of support in hubs across the world from Friday to Sunday, from San Francisco’s Embarcadero Plaza to London’s Trafalgar Square and cities throughout Canada, Australia, Germany and Taiwan.

In Sydney, hundreds of China supporters draped in the red national flag protested against “selfish” demonstrators. They marched down Sydney’s George Street in the central businessdistrict, chanting “One China” and “We support Hong Kong police.”

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Before the march started, police were called in to break up a confrontation in a park between an elderly man who was supporting protesters in Hong Kong and handing out flyers, and the pro-China crowd.

Jonah Zhu, 30, who arrived in Sydney from the Chinese city of Guangzhou three weeks ago to study teaching, said he was at the rally to call for an end to the demonstrations in Hong Kong.

“We support Hong Kong, this is why we are here,” he said. Protesters “are destroying the Hong Kong economy, they’re trying to block the airport, they are being selfish.”

Kowloon rally (Saturday 3.30 p.m.)

Thousands braved the rain and set off from a park in To Kwa Wan, west Kowloon, to a nearby train station on a redrawn route after police refused permission for the original course. The Appeal Board granted approval in a late-night ruling on Friday after protesters submitted their new plans.

Demonstrators who initially marched to oppose the now-shelved bill that would’ve allowed extradition to the mainland have added demands including investigation of police behavior. The Kowloon marchers extended the list of demands, calling for a limit to the number of tourists from mainland China.

“Although we do not forget the five demands of the Hong Kong people themselves, the main demand of this rally would be to set a capped number on mainland Chinese tourists,” said Timothy Lee, a community officer in Kowloon who organized the march. “We call upon the police to remain restrained and calm at all times.”

Some marchers strayed from the approved route and pelted offices of the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong party and the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions workers’ club.

Teachers on the streets (Saturday 11.30 a.m.)

Thousands of teachers gathered in Chater Garden in pelting rain and an amber rainstorm warning from Hong Kong Observatory. The educators marched to Government House, Lam’s official residence, as the weather cleared. They tied white ribbons to the railings around the residence and then moved on to make way for arriving protesters.

ALSO READ: Hong Kong gears up for more unrest; China's forces hold drills along border

At least 22,000 people took part in the demonstration, Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union president Fung Wai-wah said, while police estimated that there were 8,300 protesters in the march at its peak.

March granted permission (Friday 11 p.m.)

A march in west Kowloon was granted approval by the Appeal Board after organizers changed the planned route. The earlier course was denied permission by police on grounds of public-safety concerns.

Protesters Gather in Central District (Friday 9:59 p.m.)

Hundreds of protesters have gathered in centrally located Chater Garden, the site of previous peaceful gatherings by civil servants and finance professionals. Protesters there are calling on the U.S. and the U.K. to support their cause. A major planned march on Sunday remains banned despite an appeal by organizers, Radio Television Hong Kong reported. Protesters can, however, meet for a rally in a park.

Cathay Pacific CEO Resigns (Friday 5:08 p.m.)

Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd.’s Chief Executive Officer Rupert Hogg stepped down to take responsibility after the airline got caught in the middle of the protests.

Hong Kong’s flag carrier is the most visible corporate victim of the demonstrations: After its staff took part in protests and strikes, China levied a raft of curbs on the airline, which increasingly relies on mainland passengers. Its Board of Directors “believes that it is the right time for new leadership to take Cathay Pacific forward,” the statement said. Augustus Tang, 60, replaced Hogg.

Weekend Plans (5 p.m.)

Protesters will start to march at 3.30 p.m. from Hoi Sham Park in Kowloon to a nearby train station after being granted late-night approval by the Appeal Board for the new route. Police earlier denied permission for the original course. There’s also a pro-government, anti-violence rally at Tamar Park.

Sunday will mark the return of mass protests organized by the Civil Human Rights Front, which called previous historic marches that brought hundreds of thousands of people onto the street. They will gather in Victoria Park, near the city’s financial core.


©2019Bloomberg

First Published: Sat, August 17 2019. 16:49 IST
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