Thousands of riot police were deployed in Hong Kong on Thursday to stamp out rallies of any major democracy as the financial hub marked China’s National Day under the shadow of a growing crack at discontent.
The People’s Republic of China celebrates its founding with a holiday on 1 October and a careful celebration.
But in Hong Kong, it has become a day of complaint for those who are concerned with Beijing’s encroachment on the libertarian.
Chinese and Hong Kong-flying helicopters buzzed the port as city leader Carrie Lam and mainland senior officials attended a ceremony at an exhibition center amid police and security barriers.
Last year on the 70th anniversary, fierce clashes between protesters and police during a seven-month-long democracy demonstrations swept into Hong Kong.
Authorities refused permission for a protest march this year, citing security concerns and an anti-ban ban on more than four people gathered in public.
A police source told AFP that 6,000 police officers were drafted to prevent any protests – a contingency is usually held on reserve for two days if the force expects the demonstrations to take place.
Some on the messaging forums used by protesters have called for evening flash-rallies since the official march was banned. But it was not clear whether there would be any mass mobilization.
Near the exhibition center where the ceremony was taking place, four members of the Social League of Opposition League chanted slogans such as “And One Party Rule”, which was surrounded by about 40 police officers.
Police officers were seen searching for cars in a major port tunnel on Thursday morning and maintained a high presence throughout the city.
This week, police said they arrested five people suspected of inciting protests and committing violent acts.
“If you break the law, the police will bring you to justice, whether you go to any corner of the earth,” Police Chief Chris Tang said.
The rally was applied by the Civil Human Rights Front – a coalition that organized a record-breaking democracy last year.
The group is calling for the release of 12 Hong Kongers from mainland Chinese custody who were caught last month trying to flee the prosecution of the protests.
They were trying to flee Taiwan by 12 boats but were intercepted by the Chinese Coast Guard and have since disappeared into the opaque judicial system of the mainland.
More than 10,000 people have been detained during protests over the past 16 months, and courts have been plagued with lawsuits. Many prominent protest leaders are being prosecuted.
Joshua Wong, the city’s most high-profile activist, told reporters on Wednesday, “Even if they try to arrest us, prosecute us and lock us in jail, we have no reason to surrender.” For one of the three indictments he faces.
This has been broken by a comprehensive national security law imposed by China on the city in June.
Broadly legislative legislation criminalized expressing some opinion, reducing political chills in the city and allowing mainland China’s security apparatus to operate openly in Hong Kong for the first time.
It has led to sanctions by the United States and condemnation by many other Western countries. But Beijing and Hong Kong officials say stability needs to be restored.