HONG KONG PROTEST MONITOR 12 June 2020
THE SITUATION NOW
This past monitoring period (5-11 June) witnessed the influence geopolitics has on local political and security dynamics along two strands: the UK government’s offer to extend British National (Overseas) passport holders limited residency in the UK, and local pro-democracy groups launching a ‘Black Lives Matter’ solidarity protest.
On Sunday (7 June), a planned demonstration to show solidarity with the US-based ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement as well as highlight the Hong Kong police’s harsh treatment towards pro-democracy activists took place outside the US Consulate building in Central district, Hong Kong Island. A large turnout was expected, but torrential downpours from a severe storm was likely the reason behind low participant numbers. Roughly 30 activists rallied for a peaceful demonstration.
A senior local politician on 7 June warned the rights of UK citizens to work in Hong Kong could be jeopardised if their government continued with its recently declared policy of permitting holders of British National (Overseas) passports limited residency. Executive councillor and former security minister Regina Ip raised the possibility while warning eligible local residents against taking up the UK offer, which she said was also against the Sino-British Joint Declaration that underpinned Hong Kong’s return to China in 1997. Britain has proposed allowing people with BN (O) status the right to live and work in the UK for renewable periods of up to a year if Beijing refuses to withdraw national security laws it plans to impose on the territory. The controversy has provided more impetus for the pro-democracy movement to carry on with their protests against the Hong Kong and Beijing governments.
Then on Tuesday (9 June), activists took to the streets for multiple demonstrations on the one-year anniversary of the ‘million-person march’ against the 2019 extradition bill. While most of the early day protests passed off peacefully, it was around 1600 that mobilisation calls were being circulated on social media sites, including encrypted IM platforms, and by 1830 activists began converging on Chater Garden. There was a strong contingent of anti-riot police deployed in the area who also chased away some activists with pepper spray. Activists were detained, including some that were tackled. These scenes also had a galvanising effect with non-participant bystanders, who shouted at the police and condemned their use of violence.
From 1900, activists began occupying Queens Road Central, Pottinger Street, Des Voeux Road Central, Peddar Street and Xuechang Street. Police erected a cordon around Hang Seng Bank to obstruct activists from reaching Chater Garden. Police also closed Exit G of LV MTR station on Peddar Street, and closed the entrance to the Landmark shopping plaza to prevent activists from entering and leaving.
Activists march in Central district, 9 June
Between 2000-2300, police were busy intercepting and arresting activists, with a large group being detained near Citibank and DBS Bank on Des Voeux Road Central. In total, police arrested 57 people out of the thousand or so that protested in the area.
While the events on 9 June were examples of how significant dates incite protest mobilisations, a small gathering on Thursday (11 June) was symbolic for its geopolitical context. Three student activists held an anti-national security law protest and march in Lai Chi Kok, Kowloon. They chanted slogans and carried the old Hong Kong flag (1959-1997). Police detained the activists at the Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre, where they were questioned and later released.
Three activists gather for protest in Tai Chi Kok with one holding the old Hong Kong flag, 11 June/Shutterstock
While this was a rather subdued and small protest, it has gained a considerable amount of exposure on social media with activists circulating pictures and reports to garner more support. The flag is symbolic of the Joint Declaration Agreement between the UK and China that provides the ‘one country, two systems’ framework. With the passing of the national security law in Beijing two weeks ago, activists are fearful that China is accelerating Hong Kong’s amalgamation into the mainland. The protest was comparatively small, and represented a pause for the majority of street-level activists who prepared for mass gatherings on 12 June, another symbolic date in the pro-democracy calendar. This day in 2019 was when violent clashes broke out between activists and the Hong Kong Police outside the Government Headquarters in Admiralty, Central district, Hong Kong Island, in response to the attempted passing of the extradition law.
As of compiling this report on 12 June, rallies have already broken out in various places in Hong Kong. See schedule below.
THE WEEK AHEAD
This current monitoring cycle (12-18 June) is already populated with several protest events, including rallies taking place on 12 June. Around 20 activists gathered for a ‘lunch with you’ rally at the atrium of the MegaBox shopping centre off Wang Chiu Road in Kowloon. Activists dispersed peacefully after about an hour.
Earlier in the day the Hong Kong Police issued (a stark warning for activists and the general public about the repercussions of participating in banned gatherings. There are multiple pro-democracy events planned in various districts throughout the territory.
Hundreds have already gathered in multiple districts in the territory, including in Mong Kok in Kowloon and in Causeway Bay on Hong Kong Island, among others. There are reports of police arresting activists and using pepper spray to disperse others. While there is an official ban on public gatherings of nine or more people due to coronavirus restrictions, activists are clearly being defiant and mobilising, especially on significant dates. This trend is more than likely to continue in the foreseeable future.
UK-Hong Kong relations are increasingly becoming strained. Ip’s intervention is significant as it closely matches a recent warning by a former Hong Kong chief executive that two British-based banks should support the national security laws if they wished to retain their privileges in the territory and China. Both did so. The issue triggered a stern rebuke from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who called it a ‘corporate kowtow’. Pompeo’s criticism only serves to the elevate the level of hostility, which could have implications for US companies.
As the British government is unlikely to rescind its offer, companies with UK personnel in the territory should assess how their operations will be impacted if their visa rights are amended or withdrawn. British organisations may also be targeted in online propaganda campaigns by pro-democracy activists deemed siding with the Hong Kong and Beijing governments, potentially inciting boycotts and targeted protests.
The week upcoming looks to be eventful. Details of upcoming rallies can be found below.
Friday 12 June
1800-2000: The ‘Good Neighbourhood North District Church’ is planning an anti-national security law gathering in Ngau Tau Kok MTR Station, Kwun Tong, Kowloon.
1900-2100: Activists are planning a protest rally to reinvigorate the pro-democracy drive in Tamar Park, Admiralty, Central district, Hong Kong Island.
2000: Activists are planning a gathering outside the Grand Plaza in Mong Kok in Kowloon.
2000: Activists scheduled a gathering outside the New Town Plaza shopping mall in Sha Tin in New Territories. Gatherings have also been called to take place in:
- Maritime Square 1, Tsing Yi (Hong Kong Island)
- Kai Tin Mall, Lam Tin (Kowloon)
- New Century Plaza, Mong Kok (Kowloon)
- Sheung Shui Red Square, North district (New Territories)
- Taikoo Shing (Hong Kong Island)
- HANDS Shopping Centre, Tuen Mun (New Territories)
- Tai Wai A Outlet, Sha Tin (New Territories)
- Ma On Shan Plaza, Ma On Shan (New Territories)
- Tai Po Super City, Tai Po (New Territories)
- Tseung Kwan O (Kowloon)
2000: A local priest has called for an anti-Beijing/anti-Hong Kong government rally in Edinburgh Place, Central district, Hong Kong Island. The police have warned that this rally, even under the pretext of religious gathering, is not legal, and participants will be subject to restrictions and punitive measures as covered under current COVID-19 related rules. Anticipate a strong police presence, and possible violence.
Monday 15 June
TBC: Activists are planning memorial gathering at Pacific Place, Admiralty, Central district, Hong Kong Island. While Pacific Place is one location where this will occur, the activist post also mentions ‘other locations’ that will be announced 30 minutes prior to the event.
Tuesday 16 June
1430: Activists are planning an anniversary rally Victoria Park, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong Island and march to reinvigorate the pro-democracy drive.
PROTEST CHRONOLOGY 5 JUNE – 11 JUNE
Sunday 7 June
1300: Activists held a gathering outside the US Consulate in Central district, Hong Kong Island, for a ‘Black Lives Matter’ solidarity protest.
1700: Activists held rallies at Grand Plaza Hotel and Langham Place, Mong Kok, Hong Kong Island and Tsim Sha Tsui Clock Tower, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon.
Tuesday 9 June
0800-0900: A small group of activists, probably nearly two dozen, gathered at a parking lot in Shangde, Tseung Kwan O, New Territories for a candlelight vigil to memorialise the eight-month anniversary death of a pro-democracy activist.
1300-0000: There were multiple rallies across the territory, including in Landmark Plaza in Central district, Cityplaza in Tai Ko district, Wan Chai tax office and Central Plaza in Wan Chai district, Hong Kong Island; Kwai Chung Kowloon Trade Center in Kwai Chung district and Mega Box shopping mall in Kowloon Bay, Kowloon; San Po Kong; and Kwun Tong.
Thursday 11 June
1330: Three student activists held an anti-national security law protest and march between the Hong Kong Industrial Center and Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre, Lai Chi Kok district, New Kowloon. They chanted slogans and carried the old Hong Kong flag. Police detained the activists at the Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre, where they were questioned and later released.