Stepped-up security in Hong Kong on China's National Day may thwart some protesters

Hong Kong is bracing for a day of celebration and chaos on October 1, the founding of Communist China.
Hong Kong teen Moke, 16, has taken part in many protests since June, but he is taking a break from demonstrating on China’s National Day as police step up security measures in the city.
Protesters at the Avenue of Stars along Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour on Sept 30, 2019. They intend to form a human chain to Prince Edward MTR station in northern Kowloon.
Protesters at the Avenue of Stars along Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour on Sept 30, 2019. They intend to form a human chain to Prince Edward MTR station in northern Kowloon.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG
Protesters at the Avenue of Stars along Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour on Sept 30, 2019. They intend to form a human chain to Prince Edward MTR station in northern Kowloon.
Protesters at the Avenue of Stars along Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour on Sept 30, 2019. They intend to form a human chain to Prince Edward MTR station in northern Kowloon.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG
Protesters along Nathan Road in Hong Kong on Sept 30, 2019.
Protesters along Nathan Road in Hong Kong on Sept 30, 2019.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG
Protesters forming a human chain from Tsim Sha Tsui to Prince Edward in Hong Kong on Sept 30, 2019.
Protesters forming a human chain from Tsim Sha Tsui to Prince Edward in Hong Kong on Sept 30, 2019.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

HONG KONG - For secondary school student Moke, skipping the protest on Tuesday (Oct 1)  is not what he wants - but he is afraid of being arrested.

The teenager, who has taken part in many of the protests since June, told The Straits Times that he might instead attend one of the other more peaceful events held today in 18 districts - to make banners, as part of an awareness campaign.

"I have to think twice about joining the other planned protests because a few days ago, I got checked by the police who made note of my identification card and took my photos," said Moke, who added that two of his schoolmates have been detained.

Moke is among the younger protesters taking a break from demonstrating on China's national day, as Hong Kong police step up security measures in the city, with checks and patrols, in anticipation of possible violence.

A police spokesman  on Monday said intelligence suggested some hardcore protesters are inciting others, including those with suicidal tendencies, to commit extreme acts such as murdering the police, disguising as officers to kill others and setting fires in petrol stations.

"With the increase in the intensity and extensity of violence over the past three months, there are apparent signs that hardcore violence will escalate in the near future. All acts are one step closer to terrorism," said chief superintendent of public relations branch, Tse Chun Chung.

Supt Tse disclosed that 157 people were arrested over the weekend, 67 of whom were students. He said most of them were arrested for unlawful assembly. Eight were aged between 12 to 15 years old.

More than 1,750 people have been arrested so far in connection with the unrest in the city.

Citing foreign envoys and security analysts, Reuters on Monday reported that China has quietly more than doubled its deployment of mainland security forces in Hong Kong, in the most dramatic move yet by Beijing to prepare for a potential worsening of unrest in the global financial centre.

 
 
 
 

Asked if a smaller protest crowd today would be indication of a waning anti-government movement, Associate Professor Alfred Wu of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy said it could mean "people are afraid of arrests and the repressive behaviour" of the authorities.

What is worth noting, said Prof Wu, is that protesters have garnered support on the international front, and the United States is now weighing in.

Local media reported over the weekend that 22-year-old Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong, one of the leaders of the 2014 Umbrella Movement, has handed a list of officials to a US congressional commission.

Mr Wong, who has said he will run in district council elections in November, last week met with members of the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a congressional body in Washington, to give advice related to China. Its members had asked for a list of people who should be sanctioned if the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act is passed.

China has slammed the Bill, which proposes economic sanctions and penalties on Chinese and Hong Kong officials found to have suppressed democracy in the city.

Said Associate Professor Dixon Sing of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology: "If it can only freeze the assets of those who allegedly violated human rights, there's no way that government officials who don't have any assets in the US will back down. Similarly, if these officials would like to retire in the European Union rather than the US, then any right to enter the US or settle in the US is not powerful enough (sanction)."

Hong Kong, on lockdown for National Day celebrations on Tuesday, has been struggling with 17 straight weekends of protests, many of which turned violent. The authorities have rejected an appeal for a pro-democracy march, citing concerns of violence.