HONG KONG PROTEST MONITOR 10 July 2020
THE SITUATION NOW
Activists hold blank paper for masks during protests, 6 July/Hong Kong Free Press.
Two rallies outside the Consulate General of Canada (5 July) and British Consulate General (6 July) were notable as they were organised and conducted by pro-Beijing activists. Both rallies condemned the Canadian and UK governments alleged interference in the domestic affairs of Hong Kong and China. These include Canada’s halting of its extradition treaty with and ban on sensitive technology exports to Hong Kong, and the UK’s offer of a route to British citizenship for Hong Kong’s British National (Overseas) passport holders in response to the national security law. Further action perceived as interference into domestic affairs – including the UK’s possible imposition of sanctions under the Magnitsky Act on Carrie Lam and Chinese officials – will likely prompt similar protest action outside diplomatic missions in the short term.
Another significant development that underscores the increased effort of surveillance against the Hong Kong citizenry is the practice of taking DNA samples from activists. Hong Kong Police have reportedly been increasing the practice of taking DNA samples from activists. Police on 4 July confirmed they swabbed the DNA and searched the houses of ten demonstrators, who were also taken into custody under the new law on 1 July.
The collection of DNA indicates that authorities are taking a hard line on demonstrators’ alleged violations of the security law. Previously, the only demonstrators subject to DNA sampling were those implicated in attempted arson or weapons possession. This approach has raised concerns that the collected data will be used to build a database for profiling purposes. It will likely also discourage further protest action. It is also likely to raise the alarm with foreign governments such as that of the US and the UK, which have accused Beijing of infringing on Hong Kong’s autonomy. These actions contradict with Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s reassurances that the law would only target a minority of individuals. Despite Lam’s assertions, the scope of the regulations leaves the expatriate workforce exposed to such scrutiny and liabilities.
A ‘Lunch with You’ rally on Tuesday (7 July) in New Town Plaza mall, Sha Tin, New Territories, was only attended by one protester. Originally scheduled for 1245, the sole demonstrator reportedly stood in the atrium of the mall shouting pro-democracy slogans for 40 minutes from 1315 onwards after no further protesters joined.
On Thursday (9 July), a small group of pro-Beijing activists held a demonstration outside the consulate building. Placards and signs with messages of support for the National Security Law, and flags of China were on display. This demonstration ended peacefully and without any police intervention.
This demonstration was likely triggered and, sponsored by the government, in response to the Canadian government’s condemnation of the national security law and Ottawa’s attempts to attract businesses away from Hong Kong. On Friday (3 July), the Canadian government also suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong and stopped the export of military equipment. This form of retaliation from pro-Beijing activists may also target Canadian, as well as US and Australian, organisations in the immediate to near term. Boycotts of Canadian products cannot be ruled out.
The Australian government also announced on 9 July the suspension of its extradition treaty with Hong Kong in retaliation to the enactment of the Beijing-led National Security Law. The decision was made almost a week after Canada suspended its treaty with Hong Kong for the same reasons.
Two pro-democracy activists rallied at the concourse of the Festive Walk shopping centre for a ‘Tea with You’ on the same day. One of the activists, identified as ‘David’, has been appearing at other shopping mall venues on a near daily basis for similar protests.
In other developments:
A temporary national security office headquarters in what was once the Metropark Hotel in Causeway Bay opposite Victoria Park opened up on 8 July. Pro-democracy activists have typically gathered here before demonstrations. The new office is headed by Zheng Yanxiong, a former secretary general of the Chinese Communist Party’s Guangdong branch. He rose to prominence after orchestrating a crackdown on demonstrations that occurred in the village of Wukan in 2011. The office, which was installed in order to enforce the national security law, operates outside of local institutional oversight, granting its agents enforcement powers.
The Education Bureau on 8 July banned political activities at schools, including the forming of human chains, chanting of slogans, and singing of the demonstration anthem Glory to Hong Kong.
On 9 July, the department of health reported 28 locally-transmitted cases had been detected over the previous two days leading to concerns a surge in new infections represented the start of a ‘third wave’ of COVID-19. The territory only recorded 21 local cases during June but has reported almost 150 infections within the week up to 8 July. While many of the new cases are centred on care homes for the elderly, a number have been identified at cafes and restaurants popular with taxi drivers in Kowloon and the New Territories.
The health department identified several shopping malls where these new COVID patients have been to. The list is as follows:
- Dragon Centre, Lei Cheng UK Shopping Centre in Sham Shui Po, Kowloon
- Sceneway Plaza in Kwun Tong, Kowloon
- Langham Place in Mong Kok, Kowloon
- Choi Wan Commercial Complex in Won Tai Sin, Kowloon
- New Town Plaza, Mei Tin Shopping Centre, Ma On Shan Plaza, Lek Yuen Plaza, Kings Wing Plaza (Phase 1), Shui Chuen O Plaza in Sha Tin, New Territories
Shopping centres are popular places for pro-democracy activists. The government has yet to order any renewed restrictions that could reverse the relaxed regime that have allowed greater social interaction; however, this could change quickly if localised outbreaks begin to spread. Coupled with the national security law, the police will be further emboldened to clamp down on pro-democracy rallies at these venues.
THE WEEK AHEAD
Pro-democracy activists are encouraging participation in this weekend’s (11-12 July) Legislative Council (LegCo) primaries. The primaries aim to avoid vote-splitting among democrats ahead of September’s elections. Activists are concerned that Beijing will use the national security law to disqualify democrats. After the previous election in 2016, local authorities disqualified democrats for allegedly failing to uphold electoral law. Pro-democracy candidates won by a landslide in the 2019 local elections, winning 17 of the territory’s 18 districts. A win for the democrats in the LegCo would enable them to approve or reject the government budget and enact legislation. At the moment, they have approximately one-third of seats. A result in the primaries deemed to work against the democrats is likely to serve as another rallying call for activist mobilisations.
More recently, there have been some demonstrations with low participant numbers. This underlines the restrictions and threats of repercussion that the new security law poses to the broader pro-democracy, anti-Beijing activist community. Despite this, protests still continue on a near daily basis underscoring the strong resolve by this community that is unlikely going to diminish in the foreseeable future.
The rallies outside the Canadian and British consulates send a contrasting message, suggesting that pro-Beijing activists (or sponsored proxy groups) may feel more emboldened to demonstrate against foreign diplomatic missions and organisations deemed an enemy or threat to Beijing and Hong Kong. The new national security law also means that pro-democracy activists may ramp up ad hoc, spontaneous flash-mob type protests with little advanced warning.
Australia’s diplomatic mission and organisations in the territory will be under increased threat from retaliatory actions, including potential protests, harassment and boycotts, by Beijing and/or Beijing-sponsored proxy groups. Pro-Beijing activists have rallied outside the Canadian, British and US consulates in recent weeks. Australia’s presence in the territory will likely incur similar threats.
See details of upcoming protests below.
Friday 17 July
1900-2100: Activists plan on holding a ‘From the Jaws of Despair The Armageddon of Our Time’ rally at Tamar Park, Admiralty area, Central district, Hong Kong Island.
PROTEST CHRONOLOGY 3 July – 9 July
Sunday 5 July
1300: Pro-Beijing activists rallied at the Consulate General of Canada, Central district, Hong Kong Island, calling on the Canadian government to stop interfering in the domestic affairs of Hong Kong and China.
Monday 6 July
1300: Activist held a ‘Lunch with You’ rally at the International Finance Centre (IFC) mall, Central district, Hong Kong Island.
1400: Pro-Beijing activists rallied at the British Consulate, Admiralty, Central district, Hong Kong Island, calling on the UK government to stop interfering in the domestic affairs of Hong Kong and China.
1800: A silent protest dubbed ‘EX404-Action Kwun Tong’ was held at the apm shopping mall, Kwun Tong, Kowloon. Demonstrators held up blank signs in protest against the national security law, with some of them reportedly chanting pro-democracy slogans. Police arrived at 1830, ordering demonstrators to disperse. Eight were arrested.
Thursday 9 July
1400: A small group of pro-Beijing activists held a demonstration outside the Consulate General of Canada, Central District, Hong Kong Island. Activists held placards and signs with messages of support for the National Security Law. This demonstration ended peacefully and without any police intervention.
1500: Two pro-democracy activists rallied at the concourse of the Festive Walk shopping centre, Kowloon, for a ‘Tea with You’. One of the activists, identified as ‘David’, has been appearing at other shopping mall venues on a near daily basis for similar protests.