Police Disperse Hong Kong Protesters Defying Virus Curbs

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(Bloomberg) -- Hong Kong police deployed pepper spray to disperse protesters congregated at a shopping mall Friday, as tensions in the city mount following a lull during the coronavirus outbreak.

A group of people gathered in New Town Plaza in the Sha Tin area of the city to take part in an activity dubbed “Sing with You.” The crowd of more than a hundred people, chanted slogans calling for the liberation of Hong Kong, according to footage livestreamed by local media.

Police asked the crowd to leave immediately, saying that they were violating a regulation banning groups of more than four people assembling, part of measures to curb Covid-19.

Police Disperse Hong Kong Protesters Defying Virus Curbs

The latest protest followed a gathering on Sunday where police dispersed hundreds of people as well as a smaller lunchtime protest on April 24 that saw some 100 people rally at a luxury downtown mall.

It also came after the arrest last month of 15 prominent pro-democracy activists in connection with unauthorized assemblies last year -- a move that was condemned by the U.S. and several international organizations.

Beijing is growing increasingly assertive over its role in Hong Kong, looking to tighten its supervision over politics ahead of elections for the city’s Legislative Council in September.

Police Disperse Hong Kong Protesters Defying Virus Curbs

Protesters are hoping to regain momentum as the coronavirus shows signs of subsiding in the financial hub, which saw only four new cases in the past week. The outbreak hit Hong Kong in January, effectively halting the pro-democracy protests that erupted last June over since-scrapped legislation allowing extraditions to the mainland.

Hong Kong police had warned protesters to stay away from any May 1 meetings or processions in a statement dated April 24, citing the risk of spreading the virus. “The activities do not only increase the risk of infecting COVID-19 by participants and other people, but also pose serious threat to the lives and health of all citizens, jeopardizing public safety and affecting the rights of others,” the police said.

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