Protesters had to wear numbered badges and could not cover their faces. Number of march participants was restricted to 100, under escort of 50 police officers. Political acts were restricted in law from 2020. Hong Kong police allowed a small protest march on Sunday (26/03) under strict security measures, in one of the first demonstrations approved since the end of pandemic restrictions and since the enactment of the restrictive national security law in 2020.
The controversial law was passed after hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in the previous year during a wave of anti-government protests, heirs of the Umbrella Revolution, which at times turned violent.
This Saturday’s demonstration took place in the Tseung Kwan O neighborhood, under strong restrictions from the authorities, along an isolated route and with requirements such as the one that determined that all participants wear numbered badges around their necks and uncover their faces, according to the newspaper. South China Morning Post site.
About 80 people participated in the march, watched over by at least 50 police. They protested against a government plan to recover land in the neighborhood and against the construction of garbage collection points in the region, which in their opinion violate environmental laws.
Police in the former British colony justified the mandatory identification badges by arguing that there is a risk of criminals infiltrating the demonstration and instigating illegal and violent acts, according to the newspaper. The ban on wearing masks or other garments that hide the face is based on legislation passed during the 2019 protests, an offense punishable by up to one year in prison and fines of up to $3,185 (R$16,700).
Limit of 100 participants
Additionally, the protest was limited to 100 participants, despite around 300 people asking to attend. “A lot of people didn’t know if they should go because of these very strict conditions, but we had to accept them,” Cyrus Chan Chinchun, one of the organizers of the march, told reporters, hoping the requirements would only apply on this occasion.
One of the participants, British journalist James Ockenden, 49, lamented the strong limitations that the Hong Kong government imposes on protests and considered the obligation to wear numbered badges “humiliating”. “We need to have a freer protest culture,” said Ockenden, who was marching with her three children.
This Sunday’s march was the first to be authorized since the suspension at the beginning of the year of severe restrictions due to covid-19. Protests were rare during the three years of the pandemic.
At the same time, political activism was silenced through various repressive measures, such as silencing the opposition, arresting several activists and opposition politicians, taking down pro-democracy websites and closing independent media outlets since the 2019 protest movements and the subsequent national security law of 2020.
In June last year, Hong Kong police, citing “health concerns” over COVID-19, canceled a vigil commemorating the 33rd anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre in Beijing.
md (EFE, Reuters, AP)
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