Riot Police Stand By as Demonstrators Gather: Hong Kong Update
(Bloomberg) -- Hong Kong riot police stood guard at rail stations as protesters gathered to mark the fifth anniversary of 2014’s Occupy demonstrations with a mass rally, just days before China celebrates 70 years of Communist Party rule.
Beijing’s critics are entering their 17th week of protests, and Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Thursday took blame for the “entire unrest” that has rocked the city since June in a bid to calm tensions. Even largely peaceful gatherings have descended into chaos in recent weeks as smaller groups of hard-core protesters threw petrol bombs at police, who fired volleys of tear gas.
Here’s the latest (all times local):
Red alert at government building (6:40 p.m.)
The Legislative Council Secretariat issued a red alert, requiring everybody at the lawmakers’ building in Admiralty to evacuate for safety reasons.
Riot police guard stations (6:30 p.m.)
Some access points into train stations near the site of Saturday’s rally were shut, and rail operator MTR Corp. said service could be disrupted, as riot police stood guard outside exits to the facilities.
Thousands of people poured into the area for the rally to commemorate the Occupy protest and massed at Tamar Park in Admiralty.
Lennon Wall link (4 p.m.)
Protesters created so-called Lennon Walls in Victoria Park in attempt to link them through the district of Wan Chai to Admiralty, where the Occupy protest was staged in 2014.
In Admiralty, people plastered walls with posters of Mao Zedong, saying “Revolution is no crime, to rebel is justified” -- a popular slogan used by Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution. China’s President Xi Jinping’s image covered the floor in some areas.
Wong to stand in elections (11:30 a.m.)
Joshua Wong, a prominent leader of the pro-democracy Occupy Movement, announced that he’ll run in the city’s district council elections in November. He told a press conference in Hong Kong on Saturday that if the government disqualifies him from taking part, it will face more protests and international pressure.
Xi approved bill withdrawal: SCMP (7 a.m.)
Hong Kong’s Lam asked Chinese President Xi Jinping for approval before withdrawing her controversial extradition bill, the South China Morning Post reported, citing unidentified people.
Lam said at the time that it was her decision to withdraw the proposed law to try to break the political deadlock and enter into some form of dialogue with the public, and that China respected her reasons for doing so, the Post reported. The plan was sent to Xi’s office for approval before it was announced on Sept. 4, the newspaper cited a person close to the government as saying.
Restore rule of law: lawyers (Saturday 7 a.m.)
A group of 339 local lawyers called on the government and the people of Hong Kong to uphold and protect the rule of law in a full-page advertisement published in Sing Tao newspaper on Saturday.
The lawyers, who didn’t provide names but listing their identity numbers, condemned all violence and called for respect for people’s safety, rights and freedoms, and for public property. They said Hong Kong must restore its place as a “shining beacon in the region for safety, personal freedoms and economic opportunity for persons of all backgrounds.”
They said the statement was issued in their personal capacities.
Hundreds Gather at Edinburgh Place (8:02 p.m.)
A crowd of protesters gathered calmly at Edinburgh Place in the city center in solidarity with people who were detained during previous protests and held at the city’s San Uk Ling Holding Center. Police officials said at a daily press conference earlier in the day that they hadn’t used the center to detain protesters since Sept. 2 -- just after one of the worst weekends of violence in the city -- because of “speculation and groundless accusations.” It held 75 protesters at the peak of its use.
Protesters had complained about the remote location and poor phone signal that made it hard for them to contact lawyers. Police said Friday that they understood this.
Police Ban Oct. 1 Protest (6:38 p.m.)
Hong Kong police issued a ban on an Oct. 1 gathering and march organized by the Civil Human Rights Front, the group’s co-vice convener Bonnie Leung said. The decision was based on events during earlier protests involving serious injuries to protesters, police officers and journalists caused by vandalism, arson, road blockages and Molotov cocktails thrown by some demonstrators, according to the letter of objection issued to CHRF. Police also said the protest locations were close to “high-risk buildings,” including subway stations and government offices, that could be subject to violence.
Arrest tally (4:15 p.m.)
Almost 1,600 people had been arrested since the movement kicked off on June 9, police said at a daily briefing on Friday.
Hundreds of demonstrators have found themselves ensnared by Hong Kong’s legal system during a summer of unrest, and securing amnesty for them has become one of the movement’s major demands. But so far, the mass detentions have done little to keep protesters off the streets.
Singapore travel advisory (4 p.m.)
Singaporean citizens are advised to defer all non-essential travel to Hong Kong, its foreign affairs ministry said, citing reports of planned protests from Sept. 27 to Oct. 1 as the reason for the advisory. Its statement says demonstrations in its fellow Asian financial hub have become “increasingly unpredictable” and “take place with little or no notice and could turn violent.”
Independent inquiry possibility (Friday, 1:27 p.m.)
An adviser to Lam said he doesn’t believe she’s ruled out the possibility of an independent inquiry into police conduct, the South China Morning Post reported, referring to a major demand of protesters. Protesters see their tactics, including the frequent use of tear gas and rubber bullets, as too aggressive, and Lam on Thursday night rejected multiple demands at her forum for an investigation into police behavior.
“I can feel she is not closing the door,” Executive Council member Ronny Tong told a radio program.
Lam shoulders blame (Thursday)
Lam held her first public dialogue event on Thursday night before a skeptical crowd, fielding questions from some 130 citizens for more than two hours as protesters gathered outside. It was her first such forum since protests erupted over legislation that would allow extraditions to China.
“Everyone is very heartbroken, upset or even angry, the entire unrest is caused by the government’s work in amending the extradition law,” she said. “The government is shouldering the biggest responsibility for finding a way out.” Twenty-six of the 30 people who asked questions urged her to meet protesters’ demands.
The Civil Human Rights Front plans a rally for Saturday to mark the fifth anniversary of Occupy, after organizing some of the biggest mass protests in the city since its return to Chinese rule in 1997. People will gather at 7 p.m. in centrally located Tamar Park and parts of the promenade in Hong Kong Island’s central and western districts. Police approved their application for a gathering.
A global anti-totalitarianism march to the central government headquarters has been organized for Sunday, along with a rally by secondary school students.
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