Hong Kong Activists Urge Mass Protest amid ‘Whole New Level of Intimidation, Violence’

Hong Kong Activists Urge Mass Protest amid ‘Whole New Level of Intimidation, Violence’
Credit: The News Lens / Edward White

What you need to know

Democracy activists, alleging police brutality and widespread harassment from pro-Beijing thugs, have called on Hong Kongers to take to the streets this afternoon.

[Additional reporting by AFP]

Pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong say they are facing an unprecedented level of intimidation from police and pro-Beijing thugs as Chinese President Xi Jinping concludes his three-day trip to the city.

An attempted protest march in Wan Chai, downtown Hong Kong, was shut down by police this morning after pro-Beijing supporters attacked a small group of democracy activists. The tense, and at times violent, standoff lasted less than one hour before police vans were brought in to remove the pro-democracy activists, several of whom say they were assaulted by police before being let go without charge.

“What we’ve experienced this weekend was a whole new level of intimidation and direct violence,” activist Avery Ng says.

Ng, who is chairman of the League of Social Democrats, was one of the protesters taken by police this morning. He says a uniformed officer pulled his hair and tried to remove his glasses before he was further assaulted by another officer.

“Once they closed the door of the van […] he kicked once at the lower part of my body […] and then kicked me again,” Ng told a press conference in Hong Kong this morning.

“The police officer [who had grabbed my hair], banged my head onto the other side of the vehicle, on the glass,” he says.

Ng, along with fellow activists Joshua Wong and “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, have urged Hong Kong citizens to join the annual July 1 protest at Victoria Park, scheduled to start at 3 p.m. today.

“It is time for Hong Kong people to come to the street and ask for democracy and urge the police stop allowing those pro-China gangs and mobs to physically assault us,” says well-known activist Joshua Wong, who was taken from the protest this morning.

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Activist Avery Ng removed from another protest earlier this week.

Police and thugs ‘aligned’

The small march attempted by activists this morning was in memory of the victims of Beijing's 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre and coincided with the swearing-in of Hong Kong’s new leader.

Wong, who like Ng spent hours in police custody after a different protest earlier in the week, was likewise critical of police actions today.

“The police did nothing,” Wong says. “They allowed, if not arranged, those gang [members] to attack us.”

Ng added that over the past 72 hours, the League of Social Democrats has been subject to “countless” incidents of harassment and attacks by thugs.

“At the same time over 100 police officers were deployed to follow many of our key members.”

Ng said the goals of the thugs and the police are “aligned.”

“Their duty was to prevent us from going to the morning ceremony to protest against Xi Jinping. That is clear.”

In calling Hong Kong people to action, Ng cautioned that the situation could deteriorate further.

“Whatever suppression we are facing today is incomparable to what the Chinese dissidents are facing inside China."

Credit: The News Lens/Edward White
“Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung being taken by police this morning.

Xi’s ‘Red Line’

Meanwhile, Xi spoke in a televised address this morning after swearing in new Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam at a ceremony not far from where the pro- and anti-Beijing protesters clashed.

Lam was selected by a pro-China committee, as were her predecessors, and is already being cast by critics as a China stooge in a city where many are angry at Beijing's tightening grip on the freedoms of its nearly eight million people.

In his speech, Xi said any threat to China's sovereignty and security or to the power of the central government "crosses the red line and is absolutely impermissible.”

He also warned against anyone endangering Hong Kong's Constitution or using the city "to carry out infiltration and sabotage activities against the mainland.”

A huge security operation has shut down large parts of Hong Kong for Xi's three-day visit, reflecting Beijing's concern that there should be no embarrassment ahead of a key Communist Party congress later this year which is expected to cement his position as the most powerful Chinese leader in a generation.

His trip is his first since becoming leader in 2013 and comes three years after mass pro-democracy rallies crippled parts of the city for months.

Beijing's foreign ministry declared Friday that the document signed by Britain and China which initiated the handover "is no longer relevant.”

The Sino-British Joint Declaration gave Hong Kong rights unseen in China through a "one country, two systems" agreement, lasting 50 years.

The July 1 rally at Victoria Park takes place each year in protest of the 1997 handover of Hong Kong to Chinese rule.

A police helicopter patrols behind Hong Kong flag as Chinese President Xi Jinping leaves the hotel, ahead of 20th anniversary of the handover from Britain to China, in Hong Kong, June 29, 2017. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Editor: Olivia Yang