Hong Kong: Protests Return

Since the national security law came into effect in Hong Kong, the city has been on guard because of the unprecedented time it finds itself in. But over two months since the large major demonstration that took place on 1st July, protesters have been back on the street voicing their displeasure at another controversial decision by the Hong Kong government. Journalist Tommy Walker has the details from the streets of Hong Kong.

In a new spate of protests, Hong Kongers have made their feelings known over the controversial delay to vital local government elections 

The legislative council elections were postponed for what the government describes as "rising public health concerns" relating to the spread of Covid-19.

Although the decision to delay the elections was announced back in July, the actual vote was due to take place on Sunday 6th September.

Instead, Kowloon saw thousands of protesters take to the streets in anger with chants of “give me my vote back!” heard throughout the day.


Police raise the blue flag on Temple St, Jordan, HK on Sept 6/ photo Tommy Walker

Public gatherings in Hong Kong are currently limited to just two people under Covid restrictions, and police took hundreds into custody. 

Many in the city had predicted a heavy defeat for the pro-Beijing parties for the now delayed election, as pro-democrats ride the political wave which came from the pro-democracy protests that rocked the city in 2019.

With elections now delayed for ‘no more than one year’ the outcome won’t be known until at least September 2021.  


A mass-testing Covid centre has set up at HK's Kwun Chung Municipal Services Building / photo Tommy Walker

But with the government’s recent decision to push ahead with a Covid mass-testing voluntary program across the entire Hong Kong population, there are many who believe delaying the elections wasn't necessary.

Hong Kong residents are able to sign up to be tested for the coronavirus in efforts to quickly detect clusters of the virus within the former British colony.  

From a population of seven million, over one million residents have already registered to be tested, with hundreds of make-shift testing centres now set up in places like schools, stadiums and sports halls.

But critics have also weighed in, saying there is a higher risk of transmission with residents queuing up for testing.

So far, the pandemic has been tolerable in Hong Kong in comparison to countries across the Asia region. There have been fewer than 5,000 cases and 100 deaths, but social distancing laws remain in place in an attempt to stifle new clusters.

On Sunday, protesters took to the streets to march from the districts of Jordan to Mongkok via Nathan Road. As chanting got louder and groups got bigger, the police were ready in overwhelming numbers. 


Police cordon in Jordan, HK Sept 6th 2020 / photo Tommy Walker

Officers cordoned off street corners and raised the blue flag, as a warning for groups to disperse. Several were fined for violating social distancing laws.

At the time of Sunday’s demonstrations, groups of two were only legally allowed to gather. If there were signs of residents violating this, on the spot fines of $2,000HKD ($384 NZD) were dished out.

Nathan Road has often been a battleground for violent games of cat and mouse between protesters and police. This time though, traffic resumed and protesters kept to the pavement. 


HK Police hand out fines to protestors, Sept 6 2020 / photo Tommy Walker

Tactics this year have also changed for the Hong Kong Police Force. Rather than quickly firing tear gas as in 2019, officers have mostly tried to take a more cautious approach.

But the mood turned sour later in the afternoon. As protests started in Mongkok, a graphic video emerged of police aggressively tackling a 12-year-old girl to the ground. She and her brother were given a fine after looking ‘suspicious’ to officers.

The video, posted by the student media group of Hong Kong's University of Science and Technology ( HKUST),  showed the girl walking on a city footpath and being stopped by riot police.  The 12-year-old then runs off before police in full riot gear chase her down and tackle her to the ground. 

The girl's mother later told broadcaster RTHK that her daughter had been out buying school art supplies. 

Police have defended their actions, saying in a statement they had used  "minimum necessary force" in the "stop and search" situation. 

It was the second time in a week the police had been under fire after reports emerged of a pregnant woman being bundled to the ground during a memorial event in Mongkok in August. 


Protestors singing at Langham Place Shopping Mall, Mongkok, HK 6th Sept 2020 /photo Tommy Walker

Mongkok was the hotspot again in the latest action, as protesters gathered and sang loudly in the Langham Place shopping mall.

The soundtrack to Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests ‘Glory to Hong Kong‘ was played as protesters sang along.

Crowds gathered around the streets of Mongkok as police cordoned off streets in an attempt to limit protester numbers.

Pepper balls were fired, affecting both protesters and press, and Police deployed their "blue flags", demanding protestors disperse or face arrest. 

It was reported that nearly 300 people were arrested throughout the day, with the majority for illegal assembly.

Under Hong Kong's sweeping new security laws, which by-passed its local legislature, those arrested face heavy sentences if convicted.  

Hong Kong has been in political turmoil since June 2019, when the initial anti-government protests broke out, prompted by the proposed introduction of a controversial extradition bill with mainland China. That bill was later scrapped.

Since then the protest movement has evolved into a far broader front against Hong Kong's pro-Beijing administration, and against the Hong Kong police, regarded by many as irresponsible in the use of excessive force.

While Sunday’s demonstration wasn’t as big as others taken place this year or last, it did signal that the voice of democratic Hong Kong is still bubbling under the surface.

And despite the controversial national security law, and the continuous self-censorship within the city, Hong Kong has a long way to go before the protestors put down their placards. 

- Asia Media Centre