Despite a severe crackdown by 6,000 police, justified by authorities using harsh COVID-19 restrictions, thousands of protesters fighting for political rights and against control from Beijing took to the streets in Hong Kong Oct. 1. The date is celebrated as National Day by the regime in China.
For the past two years workers and other fighters have mounted protests against the Chinese rulers’ increasing grip in the supposedly semi-autonomous territory of Hong Kong. Immediate demands have included direct elections and a halt to repression by the cops. Many in the protests have called for the independence of Hong Kong.
“Hong Kong people are under a lot of pressure, but we need to keep fighting for freedom,” one protester told Al-Jazeera News.
The Civil Human Rights Front applied for a permit for the Oct. 1 demonstration, but it was denied by the puppet government. The organization has mobilized millions in demonstrations since February 2019.
Under current Hong Kong COVID-19 restrictions, no more than four people are allowed to gather together in public. Protesters eluded the police mobilization by coming together in small groups to hold up a pro-democracy paper, chant slogans like “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times,” or play “Glory to Hong Kong,” the protest anthem.
“Police screened whole streets of shoppers, including young children, for evidence they were protesters and placed several mostly young people, their hands secured with cable ties, on to buses,” reported the Financial Times.
At the end of June Beijing passed a national security law, on top of repressive local Hong Kong restrictions, that makes it easier for authorities to harass and jail strikers and protesters — echoing similar laws covering mainland China. The measure makes political crimes punishable by up to life in prison.
Speaking to a National Day event, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, a hardline Beijing supporter, celebrated the new law and the crackdown. “Over the past three months, the plain truth is, and it is obvious to see, that stability has been restored to society while national security has been safeguarded,” she said.
One demand of the demonstrators was to free 12 Hong Kong pro-democracy activists now being held incommunicado in the mainland. After they evaded arrest in Hong Kong, and were attempting to escape to Taiwan, they were captured by the China Coast Guard. “If you break the law, police will bring you to justice no matter what remote corner of the earth you flee to,” stated Hong Kong Police Chief Chris Tang.
More than 10,000 people have been arrested in Hong Kong since protests broke out.
The Chinese rulers are determined to put down these actions, and to prevent resistance to their rule from spreading elsewhere in China.
“Of course [we are afraid] but despite the fear we should not stop what we are fighting for,” a 27-year-old teacher told the Financial Times. “We still want democracy and we still need freedom and we still want our Hong Kong.”