HONG KONG PROTEST MONITOR 1 May 2020
THE SITUATION NOW
Over the previous week a series of generally peaceful protests have been held, signalling an end to the de facto ‘truce’ between activists and the authorities since the coronavirus (COVID-19) broke out in the territory earlier in the year.
On Sunday 26 April, around 300 anti-government activists gathered inside the Cityplaza shopping mall in Taikoo Shing, Hong Kong Island for a singing demonstration. They reportedly chanted protest slogans with some calling for the release of 15 prominent pro-democracy activists who were arrested on Saturday 18 April. Riot police stormed the gathering, cordoned off parts of the mall and issued verbal warnings for breach of social distancing controls. There were no reports of injuries or arrests. The protest was the largest held since March this year when the government implemented social distancing rules.
Riot police stormed Cityplaza shopping mall in Taikoo Shing, Hong Kong Island to disperse the crowd, 26 April 2020
In the evening of Tuesday 28 April, an estimated 100 people gathered inside Hong Kong island’s upmarket IFC mall in Central District to sing songs associated with the pro-democracy movement. No violence was reported but the police were deployed in force and fined at least six people for breaching social distancing regulations.
During the lunchtime of Wednesday 29 April, dozens of protesters planned to rally again at IFC mall but later changed the location to the Landmark Atrium mall. They reportedly sang protest anthems and chanted pro-democracy slogans. Riot police entered the mall about half an hour after the protest began to disperse the crowd. In the evening, a few activists gathered at New Town Plaza in Sha Tin, New Territories. Riot police maintained a heavy presence at the entrances of the mall and at the Sha Tin Terminus but no violence was reported.
On Thursday 30 April, a number of small singing protests were held in locations throughout the territory but no violence was reported. Meanwhile, riot police maintained a heavy presence at Mong Kok MTR station as passers-by left flowers to commemorate the seven-month anniversary of a violent incident at the station in which police were accused of using excessive force against members of the public.
THE WEEK AHEAD
It has been more than three months since there have been any serious street-level protests in Hong Kong by pro-democracy and anti-local and central government activists and their supporters. During this period the central government in Beijing has made clear that it expects the local administration to adopt more severe measures against those who either breach laws on public protests or who are seen as promoting separatist or nativist views.
The first major test of how the government and its opponents will respond to Beijing’s harder line on even non-violent opposition will come on 1 May when pro-democracy groups are expected to try and stage a march on Hong Kong island. The march organiser, the pro-democracy Confederation of Trade Unions, said they would set up booths across the territory after the police banned the march. It remains uncertain whether these booths will be concentrated in particular locations to gain the most public exposure or dispersed throughout the territory as they have announced. Both scenarios however will disrupt local area transport and travel on the day.
Also on 1 May, anti-government activists are calling for ‘flash-mob’ rallies referred to as ‘Operation Pegasus’ starting from 1400. They have not released any details but are calling for people to operate at Causeway Bay, Sai Ying Pun, Tai Po, Mong Kok and Kwun Tong. Given that the police are certain to respond in force if these rallies materialise, we advise travel against to these places.
At the time of writing no other protests are scheduled over the coming week. During recent protests, the police have shown relatively moderate restraint in the use of non-lethal crowd control weapons and equipment. Their intervention and government bans on public gatherings, however, have done little to subdue the pro-democracy activists as evidenced by recent and upcoming planned demonstrations. There is low to moderate likelihood of more ad hoc gatherings to occur in the run-up to the onset of the Golden Week holiday period but this upcoming weekend could see significant levels of protest activities and associated violence. We also anticipate an escalation in protests in the coming weeks, particularly when the government decides to relax COVID-19 related restrictions.
Friday 1 May
The ‘flash-mob’ rallies that referred as ‘Operation Pegasus’ are scheduled to occur at the following places from 1400:
- Causeway Bay, Hong Kong island
- Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong island
- Tai Po, New Territories
- Mong Kok, Kowloon
- Kwun Tong, Kowloon
PROTEST CHRONOLOGY 25 APRIL – 30 APRIL
Sunday 26 April
1830 Around 300 pro-democracy activists gathered inside the Cityplaza shopping mall in Taikoo Shing, New Territories to hold a singing demonstration. Riot police stormed the mall and dispersed the crowd.
Tuesday 28 April
1900 Around 100 people gathered inside IFC mall in Central District to sing songs associated with the pro-democracy movement. No violence was reported.
Wednesday 29 April
1230 ‘Lunch with You’ rally occurred at Landmark Atrium mall, Central, Hong Kong island.
1900 ‘Sing with You’ rally occurred at New Town Plaza in Sha Tin, New Territories.
Thursday 30 April
1830 A small number of protesters gathered at the +Woo mall in Tin Shui Wai, New Territories and sung anthems. No violence was reported.