Hong Kong protest movement revives with May 1 rallies

By John Studer
May 18, 2020

Hundreds of workers and youth have moved to reorganize mass protests that have shaken Hong Kong for months, demanding greater freedom, action against the cops who have attacked demonstrations, and a break from the iron grip of the Chinese rulers. They carried out a protest action at the New Town Plaza mall May 1, and smaller protests elsewhere in the city.

When the demonstrators gathered at the multitier mall and began singing the protest anthem “Glory to Hong Kong” and chanting “revolution,” they were attacked by masked riot police using pepper spray. The authorities claimed the protest violated their “social distancing” laws.

Additional cops were deployed at the mall entrance to prevent others from trying to join the action. As the police drove protesters back, they closed and roped off the atrium of the mall.

“I think the government is using the anti-epidemic measures to suppress the people and the mass movement,” John Li told Agence France-Presse during a lunch-break protest earlier in the week.

The authorities banned larger demonstrations planned for May Day called by the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions. The rulers of Hong Kong do not permit any gathering larger than four. So the unions and protest organizations set up dozens of booths around the city to hand out literature about what is facing workers during the lockdown, to advance the demands of the protesters and to get out the word that they would be starting up again.

Lee Cheuk-yan, secretary-general of the confederation and a supporter of the protests, was one of those distributing flyers in the popular Mong Kok shopping area, urging workers to build unions.

“Many people now see unions as one of the future’s front lines in our fight,” he said.

Thousands more showed their support for the demonstrations by going to protester-friendly stores, restaurants and other venues that decorated their storefronts with protest messages. “You know, after being trapped for so long, it’s normal that you want to get out and spend money and to support the ‘yellow’ shops,” a 60-year-old medical worker who goes by the name Cat, but didn’t give her last name, told the Wall Street Journal.

In recent weeks several of the central leaders of the protest movement have been arrested. Chinese officials demand the Hong Kong government adopt a series of new laws to criminalize protests as sedition.

More protests are planned.