China's National Day to be celebrated in Hong Kong with violent crackdown on dissent
Thousands of riot police were stationed across Hong Kong on Thursday to stamp out any large democracy rallies as the restless financial hub marked China's National Day under the shadow of a growing crackdown on dissent.
A day of grievance
The People's Republic of China celebrates its founding on October 1 with a holiday and carefully choreographed festivities. But in Hong Kong, it has become a day of grievance for those worried about authoritarian Beijing's encroachment on freedoms.
Under the shadow of last year
Helicopters flying the Chinese and Hong Kong flags buzzed the harbour as city leader Carrie Lam and senior mainland officials attended a ceremony in an exhibition centre ringed by police and security barriers. Last year the 70th anniversary brought fierce clashes between protesters and police during seven straight months of democracy demonstrations that swept Hong Kong.
Authorities denied permission for a protest march this year, citing security concerns and an anti-coronavirus ban on more than four people gathering in public. A police source told AFP that 6,000 police officers had been drafted in to stop any protests -- double the contingency usually placed on reserve for days when the force expects demonstrations to occur.
An opaque judicial system
"If you break the law, police will bring you to justice no matter what remote corner of the Earth you flee to," police chief Chris Tang said. The rally application was made by the Civil Human Rights Front -- a coalition that organised record-breaking democracy marches last year. The group is calling for the release of 12 Hong Kongers in mainland Chinese custody who were caught last month trying to flee protest-linked prosecutions. Those 12 were trying to escape to Taiwan by boat but were intercepted by the Chinese coast guard and have since disappeared into the mainland's opaque judicial system.
Chinese security apparatus
"Even if they try to arrest us, prosecute us and lock us up in prison, there is no reason for us to surrender," the city's most high-profile activist, Joshua Wong (Centre in pic), told reporters on Wednesday as he appeared for a court hearing for one of three prosecutions he faces. The crackdown has been aided by a sweeping national security law that China imposed on the city in June. The broadly worded legislation criminalised expressing certain opinions, deepened the political chill seeping into the city and allowed mainland China's security apparatus to operate openly in Hong Kong for the first time.