HONG KONG PROTEST MONITOR 19 June 2020
THE SITUATION NOW
This past monitoring period (12-18 June) saw US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin saying that Washington is considering restricting US capital flows through Hong Kong as part of its response to China’s planned imposition of its national security laws on the territory. Mnuchin said that the treasury-led Working Group on Capital Markets would create ‘a variety of recommendations’ to protect US investors from Chinese companies’ failure to comply with US disclosure rules and accounting practices, as per President Donald Trump’s order on 4 June.
There were multiple pro-democracy rallies across the territory on Friday (12 June) marking the first anniversary of clashes between police and protesters. Thousands attended the demonstrations in which police arrested 35. A knife-wielding man who had stabbed another individual was subdued and arrested in Kwun Tong, Kowloon. A police officer was filmed pressing his knee onto a female student’s neck, who afterwards claimed she ‘couldn’t breathe’. The incident, which has drawn parallels to police brutality in the George Floyd incident and associated protests, may serve as a catalyst to intensify demonstrations in the short term.
Activists march in Sha Tin, 12 June/Shutterstock
Thousands of people assembled in Hong Kong Island’s Admiralty district on Monday evening (15 June) to mark the first anniversary of the death of Marco Leung Ling-kit, a protester who fell from scaffolding while hanging a banner in support of a pro-democracy demonstration. A large number of police were deployed, but did not intervene other than to warn against violating social-distancing rules. No serious unrest or incidents were reported.
Activists hold a memorial for Marco Leung Ling-kit at Pacific Place shopping mall, 15 June/Shutterstock
Activists called for rallies on 16 June to commemorate the anniversary of an anti-extradition bill demonstrators claim was attended by 2 million on the same day in 2019. Activists attempted to hold a demonstration in Victoria Park, Causeway Bay, on Hong Kong Island, but were met with a heavy police presence, including armoured vehicles and water cannon, around the park and nearby Hennessy Road. Police intercepted several activists before they could gather. At 1600, a protest was held in the nearby Hysan Place shopping mall on Hennessy Road. Although protest activity was relatively subdued on 16 June because of the heavy security deployment, activists held an online demonstration between 2100 and 0000 local time. The protest was aimed at getting the hashtag #The2MillionMarch_616 to trend on social media platform Twitter. The move highlights a trend of online demonstrations as a way to maintain the pro-democracy movement active during the COVID-19 pandemic. A large rally in Tamar Park, Admiralty, Hong Kong Island, scheduled for 19 June, was postponed to 3 July.
THE WEEK AHEAD
The mostly incident-free protest on 15 June, which clearly breached government rules regarding COVID-19 regulations on social distancing and the number of people allowed to assemble in a group, reflected new tactics by both police and protesters. Many pro-democracy activists will have realised that street confrontations with the police are unlikely to have the same impact as conducting peaceful protests the authorities choose to disperse. With the pro- and anti-local and central government divisions well demarcated in the territory, activists are now likely to concentrate on shaping the imagery of events in order to strengthen international support for their cause. The emotive anniversaries coming up this month, including the one-year anniversary of a large pro-democracy rally on 28 June 2020, will test the discipline of both the police and protesters in terms of image management, conducted amid the increasingly strained relations between China and a growing number of Western countries. Companies and their staff should be aware of these tensions and the possibility of more aggressive rhetoric at a national level.
At the time of writing three political protests are scheduled over the coming 10 days, with one scheduled for Sunday 21 June. On Sunday 28 June two rallies are planned, one in Kwun Tong, Kowloon, and another in Edinburgh Square, Central district, Hong Kong Island. Police presence is expected to be significant and there is a potential for clashes between protesters and police.
Sunday 21 June
1330: The location for the ‘Shop With You’ rally is yet to be announced.
Sunday 28 June
1700-1930: A memorial rally is planned in Kwun Tong, Kowloon.
1700-2100: Activists are planning an anniversary rally to reinvigorate the pro-democracy drive in Edinburgh Square, Central district, Hong Kong Island.
PROTEST CHRONOLOGY 12 - 18 June
Friday 12 June
2000: Activists gathered in multiple areas across the territory to hold an anniversary rally to reinvigorate the pro-democracy drive, including Causeway Bay, Kwun Tong, Mong Kok, Sha Tin, Yuen Long, Sham Shui Po, Tai Po, and To Kwa Wan.
Monday 15 June
1320: Fifteen pro-democracy activists including prominent entrepreneur Jimmy Lai protested at the West Kowloon Law Courts Building and were met with a counter-protest comprised of approximately 40 people.
1800: Activists held a memorial gathering for Marco Leung Ling-kit in Pacific Place, Admiralty, Central district, Hong Kong Island.
1900-2100: Activists held a memorial gathering for Marco Leung Ling-kit in Ginza Square, Tin Shui Wai, Mong Kok, Kowloon, as well as the entrance of Tuen Mun Park near Tuen Mun MTR station, New Territories.
Tuesday 16 June
1430: Activists attempted to hold an anniversary rally and march in Victoria Park, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong Island to reinvigorate the pro-democracy drive but were met with a heavy police presence, including armoured vehicles and water cannon, around the park and nearby Hennessy Road. Police intercepted several activists before they could gather. At 1600, a protest was held in the nearby Hysan Place shopping mall on Hennessy Road.