HONG KONG PROTEST MONITOR 26 June 2020
THE SITUATION NOW
Protest activity during the monitoring cycle (19-25 June) kept within threshold trends. As in previous weeks, there were a number of protests that took place in popular shopping malls throughout the territory, but the main focal points of activity continue to those be in Yuen Long districts in the New Territories; Causeway Bay and Central districts on Hong Kong Island; and Mong Kok district in Kowloon.
The reporting week began with multiple rallies occurring in shopping centres in Mong Kok, Causeway Bay and Yuen Long districts on 21 and 22 June, with activists mainly focussing their messaging on condemning the new national security law. The dates also hold significance with the pro-democracy movement as it was when a large group of alleged triad members dressed in white assaulted activists and passengers at Yuen Long MTR Station in the New Territories in 201.
Over these two days, the largest gathering took place at YOHO mall in Yuen Long, where there were about 100 activists. At Langham Place in Monk Kok, a small protest gathering outside a Starbucks coffee shop forced the employees to 9temporarily close stalls outside the shop. Customers inside were safe and secure.
The timings of these events were staggered throughout the day, with some start times announced at least 30 minutes prior on encrypted instant messaging (IM) platforms, which is aimed at hampering the police response. The activists core message centred on condemnation of the draft national security law, which the Beijing and Hong Kong governments intend to pass into law prior to 1 July.
Banner unfurled at Lion Rock, calling for demonstrations on 1 July, 25 June
Then on the following day (22 June), a small group of activists gathered inside the main atrium of the International Finance Centre (IFC) Mall in Central district to hold a memorial for a teenager who was killed under suspicious circumstances during the unrest in 2019. Her body was found in the waters off of Yau Tong, Kowloon. This gathering is held periodically to commemorate the life of the young activist but also to highlight the issue of police brutality in the territory. This issue serves as an effective rallying call for mobilisations, but these gatherings do not usually pose any direct threats to businesses in the vicinity.
On 24 June, around 40 activists gathered for a protest and march at the Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre to show their support for an incarcerated pro-democracy activist. They also protested the new national security law as they marched along Cheung Sha Wan Road. The event ended peacefully. The Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre has become a focal point for activists who are trying to secure the release of jailed social worker Lau Kar Tong, who was recently sentenced to a year-long prison term for allegedly obstructing a police arrest during a demonstration in Yuen Long on 27 July 2019. More similar demonstrations are very likely in the foreseeable future, particularly in the run up to the anniversary of the Yuen Long attacks on 21-22 July.
On 25 June, a protest in YOHO Mall in Yuen Lung added to the volume of protest activities during the week. A small group of activists, numbering around 20, started a gathering at the atrium of the mal for an anti-national security law protest. Around 100 anti-riot police were present and they made some arrests. One particular feature that underscores the risk to non-participant bystanders, especially those in close observation of such rallies and police operations, is that of police scrutiny, harassment and possible detention.
Altercation between shoppers and riot police officer at YOHO Mall, 25 June.There were numerous reports of shoppers being harassed and detained by riot police, mainly for questioning. Though no shoppers were arrested, these incidents cause undue stress for non-participants. Media crews are also vulnerable to such scrutiny, and potential violence during police interdiction operations.
More broadly, the targeting of non-activists adds to ongoing tensions between pro-democracy activists, ordinary citizens and the Hong Kong police, and should be a particular concern for the government as it increases the potential for public opinion to shift more in favour of the pro-democracy movement.
Malls continue to be a popular venue for such demonstrations as they provide opportunity to garner public attention as well as witnesses during police intervention operations. As the Hong Kong government inches towards implementing the new national security law, more similar demonstrations are very likely in the coming days.
THE WEEK AHEAD
This upcoming monitoring period (26 June-2 July) is unlikely going to be quiet in regard to pro-democracy, anti-Beijing protest activities. The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC) in Beijing is expected to pass the national security laws next week, which means that it will take effect immediately.
On Saturday (20 June), the NPC provided some insight on provisions within a draft of the new national security law. Discussion on various social media platforms by activists have widely condemned the draft laws, and calls to mobilise for street demonstrations have been gaining more momentum in recent days.
Then on Monday (22 June), the local media reported that China was expected to impose the laws on Hong Kong on or before 1 July, the 23rd anniversary of the end of British rule and the territory’s reversion to Chinese sovereignty. More details of the new laws emerged over the weekend (of 20-21 June), in tandem with proposed changes to Hong Kong’s judicial system. According to the reports, China will establish an office in Hong Kong to collect intelligence and deal with offences deemed as threats to national security. In another move, China’s state-run Xinhua news agency reported that Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam will appoint specific judges to hear national security cases.
China’s manifest intention to impose its national security laws on Hong Kong, supported by its own personnel, is a fait accompli with only the formal announcement remaining to complete the process. The decision to permit the chief executive to select judges has raised considerable concern among the territory’s legal profession and many business leaders as it breaches the ‘separation of powers’ concept crucial to aspects of Hong Kong’s Common Law system of justice.
Many companies and individuals in the territory are now assessing their response to the rapidly changing legal environment and its implications for their business interests, and in some cases their personal security. This process is certain to intensify in the immediate outlook as more information regarding the new laws, notably regarding extradition and retroactivity, becomes available.
Regarding street-level activities, the upcoming monitoring period is likely to see an uptick in protests, driven by intense opposition to the anticipated promulgation of the national security legislation. In this context, there are clear security and safety implications for businesses and their personnel throughout the territory.
Friday 26 June
1430-1530: Middle school students are planning a ‘sing with you’ protest at the YOHO Mall, Yuen Long district, New Territories.
Sunday 28 June
1500-1700: Activists are planning a protest march dubbed ‘6.28 No CPC Silent March’. They intend to meet at Exit A, B Jordan MTR Station and march to Nathan Road, Mong Kok, Kowloon.
1700-2100: Activists are planning an anniversary rally that is scheduled to take place at Edinburgh Place, Central district, Hong Kong Island. The date for this rally could shift to 29 June.
Wednesday 1 July
1400-1500: The Civil Human Rights Front scheduled a protest march that will take place between Victoria Park in Causeway Bay and Tin Mei Avenue in Admiralty, Central district, Hong Kong Island.
PROTEST CHRONOLOGY 19 – 25 JUNE
Sunday 21 June
1230-2300: There were multiple events with activists gathering for anti-national security law protests at New Century Plaza and Langham Place, Mong Kok district, Kowloon; Times Square, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong Island; New Town Plaza, Sha Tin and YOHO Mall, Yuen Long, New Territories.
Monday 22 June
1300-1400: A small group of activists held a protest at the International Finance Centre (IFC), Central District, Hong Kong Island.
1930-2130: Activists gathered outside the Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre, Lai Chi Kok district, Kowloon to show their solidarity for an activist who was on the same day sentenced to a year-long prison term for his participation in the 27 July Yuen Long anti-extradition protests.
Wednesday 24 June
1330-1530: A small group of activists, numbering around 20, gathered at the atrium of the YOHO Mall in Yuen Long district, New Territories for an anti-national security law protest. Around 100 anti-riot police were present and made some arrests. There are also reports of shoppers being harassed and detained by riot police, although none were arrested.
2000-2030: Around 40 activists gathered for a protest and march at the Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre, Lai Chi Kok district, Kowloon to show their support for an incarcerated pro-democracy activist. They also protested the new national security law as they marched along Cheung Sha Wan Road.
Thursday 25 June
1330-2000: Activists gathered throughout the day at YOHO Mall in Yuen Long, New Territories for anti-national security law protests. Around 100 riot police and an unspecified number of plain-clothed police officers detained and arrested activists. Several businesses at the mall closed the day after the police set up security cordons around the mall’s atrium.