Hong Kong braces for mass rally over weekend after Halloween clashes

Hong Kong braces for mass rally over weekend after Halloween clashes

Revellers stand in front of a line of police blocking entry to the Lan Kwai Fong area
Revellers wearing costumes stand in front of a line of police blocking entry to the Lan Kwai Fong area during Halloween in Hong Kong, Oct 31, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Anthony Wallace)

HONG KONG: Hong Kong protesters planned flash mob demonstrations in shopping malls on Friday (Nov 1) after a night of clashes in famed party zone Lan Kwai Fong as prominent activist Joshua Wong called for 100,000 people to take to the streets on Saturday.

Black-clad protesters, wearing now banned face masks, mingled with fancy-dress Halloween revellers in the narrow, sloping streets of Lan Kwai Fong on Thursday, the first time the district had been targeted.

Police fired tear gas to break up the crowds down the hill in the Central business district and were heckled by revellers complaining they were ruining the party spirit.

A woman wearing several masks of Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Xi Jinping
A woman wearing several masks of Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam and China's President Xi Jinping marches with others in Central district during Halloween in Hong Kong, Oct 31, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Philip Fong)

Since June, protesters have taken to the streets of Hong Kong in sometimes violent demonstrations in response to perceived Chinese meddling with the city's promised freedoms.

READ: Tear gas as Hong Kong protesters don Halloween masks

Wong was disqualified on Tuesday from standing in upcoming district elections, a move he said was "clearly politically driven".

"We just let the international community realise how the election in Hong Kong is manipulated by Beijing," Wong told reporters on Friday.

"If more and more people, not only a few thousand but if more than 100,000 Hong Kongers take to the streets tomorrow, it can let the world know how Hong Kong people fight for a free election."

The bespectacled Wong was a prominent leader of the student-led protests of 2014 that brought parts of the city to a halt for 79 days, but he has not been in the forefront of the current unrest.

Protesters are seeking universal suffrage for Hong Kong, whose chief executive is chosen by 1,200 largely establishment figures from a list of Beijing-approved candidates. China will "perfect" the way the leader is appointed and replaced, a senior Chinese official said on Friday, without giving details.

Saturday's march is planned from Victoria Park beside the shopping district of Causeway Bay to Central.

It has been banned by police due to safety concerns, but two other rallies to be held in Central in the evening have received permits. Bans have not stopped people from marching before.

Protesters are calling for other cities including New York, Boston, Sydney and London to stand with them on Saturday in calling for China to fully respect Hong Kong's autonomy as enshrined in the city's mini-constitution, the Basic Law.

READ: Chinese leadership says it will ensure Hong Kong's stability and prosperity

READ: Hong Kong medics join protests against perceived police brutality

China on Thursday said it would ensure Hong Kong's prosperity and stability and protect national security in the face of unrest, the ruling Communist Party said after a key meeting of its senior leadership.

Protesters in Hong Kong say Beijing is interfering more and more in the Chinese territory and encroaching on freedoms guaranteed under a "one country, two systems formula".

READ: In a working-class Hong Kong neighbourhood, the protests hit home

A person dressed as President Donald Trump waves an American flag
A person dressed as President Donald Trump waves an American flag as they stand on a street in Hong Kong, Oct 31, 2019. (Photo: APKin Cheung)

China denies meddling and has accused foreign governments including the United States and Britain of stirring up trouble.

On Thursday, Hong Kong's High Court issued a temporary injunction banning people from posting or spreading messages online which "incites the use or threat of violence".

The measure is the first time authorities have tried to curb the publishing of comments online, a move critics say sets a dangerous precedent for controlling the internet.

The ban, effective until Nov 15, applies to any Internet platform and specifically names LIHKG and Telegram, two popular tools that protesters use to communicate on.

READ: Hong Kong falls into first recession in 10 years as protests, trade war weigh

READ: Murder suspect who triggered Hong Kong protests is a 'free man' with 'free will': Carrie Lam

A man in a Halloween costume walks past police officers in riot gear in Hong Kong on Oct 31, 2019
A man in a Halloween costume walks past police officers in riot gear in Hong Kong on Oct 31, 2019. (Photo: AP/Vincent Yu)

The measure also comes as data on Thursday confirmed that Hong Kong slid into recession for the first time since the global financial crisis in the third quarter.

While the Sino-US trade war has hampered the city's economy, the protests have dealt a further blow, crippling the retail and tourism sectors. Retail sales fell 18.3 per cent in value in September from a year earlier, an eighth consecutive month of decline. August's drop was a revised 22.9 per cent.

MORE: Our coverage of the Hong Kong protests

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Source: Reuters/zl

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