HONG KONG PROTEST MONITOR 5 June 2020
THE SITUATION NOW
Over the monitoring cycle (29 May-4 June), activists showed considerable defiance against the Hong Kong authorities’ coronavirus (COVID-19) related social distancing rules by carrying out multiple pro-democracy, anti-Beijing rallies. The most significant and symbolic gathering occurred on 4 June at Victoria Park, where thousands of people attended a banned vigil during the early evening to mark the 31st anniversary of the Chinese government actions to clear activists from Beijing’s’ Tiananmen Square.
Activists gather at Victoria Park during the Anniversary for the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre Square protests on 4 June
An unknown number of people died in the 1989 operation carried out by the People’s Liberation Army, while many thousands of others were imprisoned or went into self-exile. The Hong Kong police had earlier said the rally would not be permitted as it contravened local social distancing regulations intended to counter the coronavirus pandemic. The police, who had earlier warned they would prevent the gathering on health grounds, did not intervene except in a few isolated cases and the event passed off peacefully apart from a brief confrontation in Kowloon’s Mong Kok district.
More than 300 people participated in a candlelight vigil and march at the Langham Place sculpture in Mong Kok. While in Tuen Mun, specifically Tuen Mun Station near the Puidu Road exit, in the New Territories there were over 100 people who participated in the vigil. In Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon, nearly 100 activists converged on the Clock Tower.
Earlier during the monitoring period, activists continued the trend of carrying out rallies at high-profile shopping centres and an MTR station.
On 31 May, there were two separate rallies at the International Finance Center (IFC) in Central district on Hong Kong Island, and at the Prince Edward MTR station in Mong Kok district, Kowloon. While the IFC rally ended peacefully, there were minor altercations between police and activists at the Prince Edward station. Then on 1 June, a small group of activists gathered inside the atrium of the Landmark mall where they protested against the new National Security Law. This was followed by a rather subdued ‘lunch with you’ protest at Pacific Place on 2 June.
Shoppers watch and listen to activists during a protest rally at Pacific Place shopping centre on 2 June
While these rallies did not exhibit any unusual characteristics from current trend lines, their respective presence had an emboldening effect for the activist movements ahead of the annual Tiananmen Square vigil. Police also demonstrated constraint, and this was likely a strategy aimed at not provoking activists to engage in far more disruptive and potentially violent demonstrations in the run up to the 4 June anniversary.
THE WEEK AHEAD
There are numerous demonstrations planned for the next monitoring period (5-11 June), including one that is garnering more attention globally.
On Sunday (7 June), pro-democracy, anti-Beijing activists are planning a solidarity rally for the US-based ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement that is intended to take place outside the US Consulate General building in Central district. The consulate has been the focal point of previous demonstrations, with the most notable taking place in early September 2019, when activists numbering in the thousands called on the US government to support the pro-democracy movement. For this upcoming rally, event organisers intend on marching to the consulate, but concede that they may hold it in nearby Chater Garden. This is likely due to the security setup around the consulate.
Since the protests in the US triggered by the 25 May death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, there has been an uptick in communications between activists in the US and Hong Kong. Most communications by Hong Kong activists have centred on solidarity and support, but there has been an increasing amount of content related to protest tactics transferred from Hong Kong activists to counterparts in the US. In Hong Kong, activists have also amalgamated the US police brutality issue with their own in order to draw more global attention and encourage more public demonstrations.
The Hong Kong police and other diplomatic security forces are likely to have a very large presence around the US Consulate General building over the weekend, with road blocks and diversions established either on the eve or early morning hours to prevent activists from gathering. Chater Garden is a more viable location to hold the rally due to its open spaces and relatively easier access. Having it outside the consulate, however, is more symbolic and brings more international attention to the Hong Kong pro-democracy, anti-Beijing movements.
The consulate itself will not be open on the day as per its normal schedule. Companies with travelling staff are advised to keep their respective movements to essential business only. Journey management plans should factor in alternative routes if travel is required in the vicinity of the consulate and/or Chater Garden. Media organisations are advised to supply crews with PPE and a security support detail.
Another issue that has been thrown into this increasingly complex situation was the decision by the US administration of President Donald Trump to end Hong Kong’s preferential trade and travel status. Trump made the decision in response to Beijing imposing its national security laws on the territory. The president gave no indication when the territory’s privileges will be withdrawn, but he also noted Hong Kong and Beijing officials the US deemed had been ‘directly or indirectly involved in eroding Hong Kong’s autonomy’ would face unspecified sanctions.
The US move will further intensify the already volatile relationship with China and, despite being earlier signalled by senior US government officials, caused profound shock to many in Hong Kong. The territory’s present trade and travel privileges are mandated under the United States-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992, reinforced by the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act passed by the US Congress in November 2019 and will require Congressional approval to be rescinded. This is likely to be a formality and Hong Kong will, unless China retracts its decision to impose its own security laws on the territory – which is almost inconceivable – become subject to the same tariffs and strictures Washington has imposed on Beijing. In addition to greatly increasing the cost exporting to the US, the loss of privileges will also have as yet undisclosed consequences for such issues as aviation and shipping rights and access.
At present Trump’s declaration has no clear security implications for foreign companies in Hong Kong or their staff. However, this could change when the economic consequences of the end of trade and travel privileges become evident and if local pro-Beijing groups stage protests or other direct actions against US interests and potentially those of its allies, such as Britain, as they also impose sanctions or take other measures in support of the status quo ante in Hong Kong. Companies should assess their vulnerabilities to Hong Kong’s apparent change in status with the US and other nations, and consider measures to mitigate its impact on their staff, assets and operations.
Details of upcoming rallies can be found below.
Saturday 6 June
1600-1900: Activists plan on gathering near SOGO mall, Causeway Bay (Hong Kong Island).
Sunday 7 June
1100-1400: Activists plan on gathering somewhere along National Road or Sai Yeung Choi Street, Mong Kok district (Kowloon). Another rally is planned to take place outside the Commercial Printing Bureau on Shandong Street.
1400-1500: Student activists are planning a protest march to reinvigorate the pro-democracy drive that will take place at the Tsim Sha Tsui Clock Tower to Anchor Street Football Stadium (Kowloon).
1430-1730: Activists scheduled gatherings at several MTR stations, including Kwun Tong (Kowloon), Sha Tin (New Territories), Kwai Fong (New Territories) and Tsim Sha Tsui (Kowloon).
1600-1900: Activists planned rallies on Near East Point Road in Causeway Bay (Hong Kong Island)
Monday 8 June
1900-2100: A rally is planned for near West Kowloon station (Kowloon).
Tuesday 9 June
1900-2100: Activists scheduled a rally at Tai Kok Tsui station (Kowloon).
Wednesday 10 June
1900-2100: A rally is planned to take place near the flyover at Chai Wan Xincui shopping centre, Chai Wan (Hong Kong Island).
Thursday 11 June
1900-2100: Activists scheduled a rally for the Tai Wai ‘Octopus’ Flyover, Tai Wai (New Territories).
PROTEST CHRONOLOGY 29 MAY – 4 JUNE
Friday 29 May
1300: Activists gathered inside the atrium of the Kwun Tong shopping mall, Kwun Tong (Kowloon).
Sunday 31 May
1800-2300: Activists gathered at the International Finance Center (IFC) shopping mall in Central district (Hong Kong Island) and the Prince Edward MTR station in Mong Kok district (Hong Kong Island). There were minor altercations at the Prince Edward MTR station.
Monday 1 June
1300-1400: Activists gathered for a lunchtime rally at the Landmark Atrium, Central district (Hong Kong Island). No violence was reported.
Tuesday 2 June
1300: Activists gathered at Pacific Place in Admiralty, Central district (Hong Kong Island) for a lunch time gathering. There were no incidents of violence.
1300: A few activists gathered in the atrium of the Pacific Place mall, Admiralty, Central district (Hong Kong Island) for a ‘lunch with you’ protest. Their chanting and calls to attention attracted about 40 onlookers and journalists, with some shoppers taking part in chants. Police were present, warning activists, onlookers and journalists to adhere to social distancing rules. The gathering ended peacefully.
1500: Activist members of the ‘Hong Kong Good Citizen’ group held separate protests outside the UK, US and Australian diplomatic missions, calling on these respective foreign governments to refrain from interfering in the domestic affairs of China and Hong Kong. In some instances during the protests, passers-by verbally assaulted these pro-Beijing/Hong Kong activists. There were no incidents of violence, and the rallies ended peacefully.
Thursday 4 June
1845: Thousands of activists gathered inside Victoria Park, Causeway Bay (Hong Kong Island) for the 31st annual observance of the Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing. The park had been closed and the police officially banned the gathering, but activists started poured into park followed by several journalists. The vigil was held peacefully as police, including anti-riot personnel, looked on.
1900: Similar marches and rallies took place in at the Langham Place sculpture in Mong Kok (Kowloon). While at Tuen Mun MTR Station near the Puidu Road exit, in the New Territories there were over 100 people who participated in the vigil. In Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon, nearly 100 activists converged on the Clock Tower