The police give ‘no objection’ letters to the organizers on the condition that they ensure that the protest does not violate national security laws.
Hong Kong police have allowed a small protest march under tighter restrictions in one of the first demonstrations to be approved since the enactment. a comprehensive national security law In 2020.
Several dozen protesters on Sunday were required to wear numbered lanyards and were barred from wearing masks, as police were monitoring their march against a proposed land reclamation and waste processing project.
Participants chant slogans against the reclamation project as they march in the rain with banners in the eastern district of Tseung Kwan O, where the project is to be built.
Some criticized the restrictions on his protest, which included limiting the number of participants to 100, according to a seven-page letter from police to organizers that was seen by Reuters.
“We need a more free-spirited protest culture,” said James Ockenden, 49, who was marching with his three children.
“But it’s all pre-arranged and numbered and it just destroys the culture and will definitely put people off coming.”
In response to the protest, the city’s development bureau stated that the project was intended to “support the daily needs of the community”.
It said it would “respect the right to freedom of expression” and study the possibility of reducing the scale of the land reform.
The police gave “no objection” letters to the organizers on the condition that they ensured that the protest or speech would not violate national security laws.
“Some law breakers may join public meeting and procession to disrupt public order or even indulge in illegal violence,” the police warned in its letter.
Organizers said 50 people took part in the first protest to be authorized by the city’s police in several years.
Applications for other protests, including a candlelight vigil on June 4 to remember the victims of China’s Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989, have been rejected on grounds related to COVID social distancing.
Hong Kong’s last COVID restrictions were lifted this year, following China’s decision to end its “zero-COVID” policies.
Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, guarantees the right of public assembly.
Since the national security law enacted by China in June 2020 in response to pro-democracy protests in 2019, The authorities have clamped down on freedom and arrested scores of opposition politicians and activists.
Some Western governments have criticized the law as a tool of repression but Chinese officials say it has restored stability to the financial hub.
A protester named Chiu, 50, said he appreciated the opportunity to protest “in difficult times”, adding that he sees the lanyards more as a means to facilitate crowd management.
“It is not meant to impose a leash on us to limit our expression. I think that is acceptable,” she told Reuters.
Political observers and some Western diplomats are watching to see whether authorities will allow the resumption of major demonstrations in Hong Kong on June 4 and July 1, which have been a mainstay of the city’s once vibrant civil society scene and attracted thousands of people.
Earlier this month, the Hong Kong Women Workers’ Association planned a march to call for labor and women’s rights, but canceled it at the last minute without explanation.
A few days later, the association said on its Facebook page that it had invited further meetings after the police cleared it and did its best to amend the agreement. But it still could not start the protest as it wanted, he wrote at the time.
A pro-democracy group separately said that the National Security Police had warned four of its members not to participate in the association’s march.