Hong Kong police ban mass protest over safety fears

Hong Kong police ban mass protest over safety fears

HONG KONG: Hong Kong police have banned a mass protest rally from going ahead on Saturday (Aug 31) over public safety concerns, organisers said, after last weekend saw some of the worst violence in three months of political unrest in the financial hub.

In a letter to the Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF) on Thursday, police said they feared some participants would commit "violent and destructive acts".

Protesters have not only carried out "arson and large scale road blockades but also used petrol bombs, steel balls, bricks, long spears, metal poles, as well as various self-made weapons to destroy public property on a large scale, damage social order and cause injury to others," the letter said of previous protests.

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Protesters have shown few signs of leaving the streets of Hong Kong, while the government has also
Protesters have shown few signs of leaving the streets of Hong Kong, while the government has also refused to give ground. (Photo: AFP/Lillian Suwanrumpha)

The rare move comes after officers deployed water cannon and fired a warning gunshot to fend off radical protesters on Sunday night, after a sanctioned rally turned ugly.

Saturday's rally was set to mark five years since Beijing rejected political reforms in Hong Kong, a decision which sparked the 79-day Umbrella Movement.

The CHRF, responsible for the largest rallies the city has seen in decades, said they would appeal the decision.

"You can see the police's course of action is intensifying, and you can see (Hong Kong leader) Carrie Lam has in fact no intention to let Hong Kong return to peace, but is trying to incite the anger of more citizens through tough measures," the group's leader Jimmy Sham told reporters.

READ: China rotates new batch of troops into Hong Kong as protesters call for democracy

An anti-extradition bill protester throws a tear gas canister back to riot police during a protest
An anti-extradition bill protester throws a tear gas canister back to riot police during a protest to demand democracy and political reforms, at Tsuen Wan, in Hong Kong, China August 25, 2019. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Supporters had been urged to gather in the city centre and later march to the Liaison Office, the department that represents China's central government in Hong Kong, but both aspects, which need permission from authorities, have been banned.

The last event organised by the CHRF on Aug 17 brought hundreds of thousands of people to the streets in a deliberate show of peaceful protest that saw demonstrators disperse without clashes.

On that occasion, the initial rally in a Hong Kong park was approved by authorities but protesters later defied a ban to march through the city.

READ: Commentary: It's Hong Kong's elites who have failed the city

Protesters hold hands to form a human chain during a rally to call for political reforms at Tsim Sh
Protesters hold hands to form a human chain during a rally to call for political reforms at Tsim Sha Tsui and Hung Hom Promenade in Hong Kong, China, August 23, 2019. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan

The protests were ignited when the city's Beijing-backed government tried to pass a bill allowing extraditions to mainland China, but have evolved into a wider call for greater democracy and an investigation into allegations of police brutality.

The mainly young protesters say their freedoms, unique within China, are being eroded by Beijing.

MORE: Our coverage of the Hong Kong protests

More than 850 people have been arrested since June.

The unrest has shown no sign of abating, with protesters locked in a stalemate with the Hong Kong government, which has refused to give in to their demands.

Source: AFP/zl

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