HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - Hong Kong ramped up security and warned activists against holding any demonstrations as the Asian financial centre prepares to mark a particularly sensitive anniversary of the former British colony's return to Chinese rule.
The police urged the public in a statement Wednesday (June 30) not to participate in unauthorised assemblies after banning activists from holding a rally on July 1, traditionally a day pro-democracy groups hold mass anti-Beijing demonstrations across Hong Kong.
Police cited the Covid pandemic.
Authorities plan to deploy 10,000 police officers Thursday and may shut down Victoria Park, where rallies are usually held, according to the South China Morning Post.
But pro-democracy supporters may still voice themselves through street booths or by dressing in black, said Ms Chow Hang Tung, an activist lawyer representing the three civic-rights groups that unsuccessfully applied for a permit to hold a rally on Thursday, which also marks the 24th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to Chinese rule from Britain.
"Protests go on around the world everyday despite Covid, but not a single protest has ever been approved by the Hong Kong police since Covid began," Ms Chow said.
The banned rallies represent the latest sign of how Hong Kong has changed one year after Beijing pushed through a controversial national security law that's led to the arrest of more than 100 dissidents, the dismantling of the opposition party and the closure of one of the city's most popular newspapers.
Meanwhile, Chinese authorities have hailed the security law for bringing stability back to Hong Kong after the city was rocked by protests up until the pandemic began, something Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said as recently as Wednesday.
Hong Kong authorities including Chief Executive Carrie Lam have regularly echoed their praises of the new rules.