Police have fired rounds of pepper balls at protesters in Hong Kong as hundreds took to the streets to demonstrate against the postponement of legislative elections and a new national security law imposed by China.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam postponed the September 6 election for seats in the Asian financial hub’s Legislative Council for a year in July because of a spike in coronavirus cases.
The move dealt a blow to the pro-democracy opposition who hoped to win a historic majority in the Council, where only half the seats are directly elected and the other half are appointed members who mostly support Beijing.
The poll would have been the former British colony’s first official vote since Beijing imposed new security legislation in late June.
Riot police deployed pepperballs on Sai Yeung Choi Street South on Sunday after protesters threw debris at officers. Vid courtesy: HKUST Radio News Reporting Team. In full: https://t.co/nUaPabs9Zl #hongkong pic.twitter.com/srI0bNd3lF
— Hong Kong Free Press HKFP (@HongKongFP) September 6, 2020
The government insists there was no political motive behind the delay.
Thousands of police were stationed around the bustling Kowloon peninsula on Sunday as marchers waved placards and chanted popular anti-government slogans such as “liberate Hong Kong”.
These slogans are now banned under the new security law.
Police said they arrested at least 90 people, mainly for illegal gatherings, in a notice on their Facebook page.
Several well-known activists were arrested during the demonstration including Figo Chan, the vice-convenor of the Civil Human Rights Front and former legislator Leung Kwok-hung, also known as “Long Hair”, according to a post on Chan’s Facebook page.
Anti-government demonstrations have declined this year mainly because of limits on group gatherings, imposed to counter the spread of coronavirus, and the security law, which punishes actions China sees as subversive, secessionist, terrorist or colluding with foreign forces.
Critics say the law aims to quash dissent in the city, while supporters say it will bring more stability after a year of often-violent anti-government and anti-China unrest.