HONG KONG PROTEST MONITOR 22 May 2020

22 MAY 2020

THE SITUATION NOW

Over the monitoring period (15-21 May), there have been some key developments that are likely to have significant on the civil unrest threat across the territory.

There were numerous pro-democracy, anti-Beijing protests during the early parts of the monitoring period. Activists had gatherings at Landmark shopping mall in Central district, Central Plaza in Wan Chai and Pacific Place in Admiralty and Cityplaza in Tai Koo on Friday (15 May) for peacefully-conducted ‘Sing with You’ protests. Participant numbers were low at each protest due to the restrictions on public gatherings. Police were present at each rally, but their intervention was limited to enforcing social distancing. There was particular attention on journalists covering these event, with police warning them to also adhere to social distancing rules or risk detention.

Similar gatherings were held at SOGO shopping centre in Causeway Bay on 17 May, at the International Finance Center (IFC) mall and outside the West Kowloon Magistrates Court on 18 May. At SOGO, activists had a petition drive against an upcoming legislative reform package that activists claim demonstrate Beijing’s further attempts at suppressing democratic freedoms. One contentious legislation that has garnered a significant amount of attention on social media is the national anthem bill which will make it illegal to disrespect the national anthem of the People’s Republic China. Ten similar bills will be tabled at a Legislative Council session on 27 May.

On Friday (15 May), Chief Executive Carrie Lam was reportedly considering giving more authority to the police to monitor social media in order to combat misinformation/disinformation campaigns. Her government was also reported to be considering issuing a ‘code of practice’ for the media in an effort to ensure the safe reporting of events.

The police did, however, warn journalists to follow the social distancing rules or risk detention. Lam and her government’s proposed measures to tighten media freedoms has garnered garnering strong condemnation from activists on social media.


Pro-democracy activist at International Finance Center mall on 18 May/Shutterstock

On Tuesday (19 May), the government’s secretary for food and health said that some social distancing regulations will remain in place for a further 14-day period until 4 June, including rules that bar public gatherings of more than eight people. The timing of the extension is widely seen as intended to prevent the annual 4 June vigil that has been held in Hong Kong each year since 1990 to mark the killing of pro-democracy activists and their supporters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989. The vigil organiser, the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, has accused the government of using social-distancing rules to stop the event, a claim also made over recent police tactics against peaceful pro-democracy protestors.

Another rally that occurred over the period, and one that has taken place on the 21st of every month, was the ‘721’ gathering to commemorate the anniversary of the 21 July attacks on anti-extradition activists by an armed mob of triad members, who were dressed in white. Activists gathered during the early evening on Thursday (21 May) at Yuen Long Station and entered YOHO Mall, where they proceeded to the atrium for a ‘Sing with You’ rally. Similar protests took place at Tai Koo Shing and Times Square in Causeway Bay. 


Pro-democracy activist at International Finance Center mall on 18 May


THE WEEK AHEAD

There is a very strong likelihood of a sharp upward trend in protest events across the territory over the upcoming monitoring cycle (22-28 May). Numerous rallies have been planned for this weekend, with particular emphasis of having them at shopping malls and outside ‘yellow shops’. Given the social distancing rules that limit participant numbers to eight for public gatherings, rallies are likely to be far more dispersed throughout the territory.

One exception to this, however, will likely be on 27 May, when the Legislative Council will discuss and vote on reforms that activists claim will further suppress certain democratic freedoms. There are growing concerns over Beijing imposing new national security laws that will likely have profound implications on grassroots activism and opposition political parties in the territory that could significantly reignite more volatile unrest. There are numerous and continuous calls on social media for mass gatherings to take place, including one at the Legislative Council Complex in Central district. Such an event will undoubtedly attract a significant security force presence and possible pro-Beijing activist support. Hostilities are certain, and established precedence strongly suggests that the police will suppress activities with force.

Furthermore, the police have been using public health precautions to tightly control protests and the journalists covering them. In the event that there is an increase in the number of illegal rallies on or before 27 May, the government may impose a blanket ban on gatherings for a limited period. In addition to the rallies planned for 27 May, there is the annual 4 June mass gathering at Victoria Park to commemorate the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. The government’s extension on social distancing regulations to prevent the annual vigil has incited significant levels of condemnation and raised the likelihood of ‘flash mob’ style rallies over the coming week.

 

UPCOMING PROTESTS

Friday 22 May

1100 and 2300: Activists are calling on supporters to hold a minute of silence to observe the eight-month anniversary of the death of 15-year-old pro-democracy supporter, Chan Yin-lam, whose corpse was found in the sea near Yau Tong (Kowloon). Her death was ruled a suicide, but pro-democracy activists allege that she was killed by the police in response to her participation in protests. Small vigils are likely throughout the territory, particularly in Yau Tong.

1700-1900: Student activists are planning gatherings at Central MTR station, Central district.

Saturday 23 May

1400-1800: Activists are planning ‘Sing with You’ protests to take place throughout the territory with shopping malls and outside ‘yellow shops’ likely venues.  

Sunday 24 May

1300: A protest march is scheduled to take place between SOGO Causeway Bay to Chater Garden in Central district. There is another rally point at Southorn Playground, Wan Chai district.

1400-1800: Activists are planning ‘Sing with You’ protests to take place throughout the territory with shopping malls and outside ‘yellow shops’ likely venues.

1800-2000: ‘Sing with You’ protests are planned to take place at Edinburgh Place, Central district.

Wednesday 27 May

TBC: Activists are planning a mass gathering outside the Legislative Council Complex, Central district to protest the national anthem bill.

Thursday 28 May

1700-2100: Activists are planning to hold a ‘Sing with You’ protest at Edinburgh Place, Central district.


PROTEST CHRONOLOGY 15 MAY – 21 MAY

Friday 15 May

1300: Pro-democracy activists rallied inside the atrium of Landmark shopping mall in Central district.

1830: Activists gathered for ‘Sing with You’ protests at Central Plaza in Wan Chai and Pacific Place in Admiralty.

Saturday 16 May

1500: Activists held rallies at East Point City mall in Tseung Kwan O, YOHO mall in Yuen Long, Olympian City in Tai Kok Tsui, and New Town Plaza in Sha Tin.

Sunday 17 May

1300-1730: Activists held a small petition drive at SOGO Causeway Bay. No violence was reported.

Monday 18 May

1400: Pro-democracy and pro-Beijing held separate rallies outside West Kowloon Magistrates Court, Kowloon, where pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai appeared before the court.

1830: Activists held a ‘Sing with You’ gathering inside the atrium of the International Finance Center (IFC) shopping centre, Central district.

Tuesday 19 May

1500-1800: Student activists held a rally at the MOKO mall, Mong Kok, Kowloon.

Thursday 21 May

1300-1500: Student activists gathered for a small rally at Chai Wan MTR station, Eastern district

1330: Activists gathered for a ‘Sing with You’ protest at the atrium of Landmark mall, Central district.

1830: Activists gathered for a ‘Sing with You’ protest at Cityplaza in Taikoo Shing and Times Square in Causeway Bay.

2000: Activists held a ‘721’ rally at Yuen Long MTR station, Yuen Long.

 

END REPORT