Hong Kong protests to combine with Mid-Autumn lantern celebrations; chaos at shopping mall amid battle of songs

VIDEO: TOMMY WALKER
Protesters wearing gas masks rest in front of Mid-Autumn Festival decorations inside a shopping mall at Wong Tai Sin in Hong Kong on Aug 24, 2019.
Protesters wearing gas masks rest in front of Mid-Autumn Festival decorations inside a shopping mall at Wong Tai Sin in Hong Kong on Aug 24, 2019.PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG (REUTERS) - Hong Kong activists will combine anti-government protests with lantern celebrations marking the Mid-Autumn Festival this weekend after a brief lull in sometimes violent demonstrations which have rocked the Chinese-ruled city since June.

The protests include another in a series of "stress tests" of the airport, which in recent weeks have seen approach roads blocked, street fires started and the trashing of a nearby MTR subway station.

Protesters also jammed the airport arrivals hall last month, leading to cancelled or delayed flights and clashes with police. The Hong Kong Airport Authority obtained an injunction last month which gives it the right to clear protesters, except for those in designated areas.

Activists also plan to gather outside the British consulate on Sunday to demand that China honours the Sino-British Joint Declaration that was signed in 1984, laying out the former British colony’s future after its handover to China in 1997.

China says Hong Kong is now its internal affair. Britain says it has a legal responsibility to ensure China abides by its obligations under the Joint Declaration.

 
 
 

Hong Kong returned to China under a “one country, two systems” formula that guarantees freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland, including an independent legal system.

The current unrest was originally prompted by anger over planned legislation to allow extraditions to China, but has broadened into calls for democracy. China has accused the United States, Britain and others of fomenting the unrest.

For the Mid-Autumn Festival, which falls on Friday (Sept 13) this year, protesters plan a series of lantern-carrying human chains and sit-ins at MTR shopping malls and on the scenic Victoria Peak, popular with mainland tour groups, and on Lion Rock, separating the New Territories from the Kowloon peninsula.

CHAOS AT IFC MALL

There were some lunchtime scuffles on Thursday between pro-Beijing and anti-government supporters in the mall of the IFC, a prominent skyscraper on the newly reclaimed Central waterfront. Some top-brand stores briefly closed.

A group of people who support Beijing arrived with national flags and started belting out the national anthem, while anti-government protesters sang Glory To Hong Kong, which has fast become the demonstrators' anthem.

Anti-government protesters gathered there again after office hours, chanting “Five demands, not one less” and “add oil, Hong Kong people”, which means keep drawing strength.

One of the five key demands was the withdrawal of the extradition Bill, to which Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has agreed. The four others are: retraction of the word “riot” to describe the protests, release of all arrested demonstrators - now numbering 1,365, an independent inquiry into perceived police brutality, and the right for Hong Kong people to choose their own leaders.

On Thursday night, protesters also gathered at IFC, and various other malls in areas including Sham Shui Po, Causeway Bay and Yuen Long, to sing Glory To Hong Kong, and to again demand that all five key demands be met.

PERMIT APPLICATION FOR SUNDAY'S MARCH TURNED DOWN

Police denied the Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF) permission for a mass downtown march on Sunday.

“In previous marches applied for by CHRF, participants, reporters and police suffered serious injuries,” police said in their refusal letter to the group.

NATIONAL DAY FIREWORKS COULD BE CANCELLED

The Hong Kong government is also inclined to cancel a fireworks display which is usually held over Victoria Harbour on Oct 1 to celebrate the anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

After assessing the risks amid the ongoing protests, the government is likely to cancel the event, broadcaster TVB reported on Thursday.