01/02/2018, 13.20
HONG KONG – CHINA

Thousands protest to protect Hong Kong from Beijing’s interference

China's decision to extend its control to the West Kowloon high-speed railway station sparked the protest. Many believe this undermines the principle "one nation, two systems".

Hong Kong (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Thousands of people, especially young, took to the streets of Hong Kong yesterday in protest over Beijing’s interference undermining the territory’s autonomy as agreed upon at the end of British rule.

Carrying banners that read "Protect Hong Kong!" the protesters marched through the downtown area to Civic Square, which was only recently reopened in the wake of the 2014 pro-universal suffrage movement. Joshua Wong, a former student leader of the 2014 Occupy Central movement, was among those present.

Last week, China’s National People's Congress (NPC), said it would extend Beijing's authority to part of a high-speed railway station linking the former British colony to the rest of China's high-speed rail network. In practice, this would place mainland customs officials in charge of customs jurisdiction in both directions.

For China, the plan would apply only to a designated zone at the West Kowloon terminus and not to the whole of the city. However, for many in Hong Kong, it would curb the city’s autonomy under its existing Basic Law agreed by Beijing and London on the basis of the principle of ‘one nation, two systems’.

The NPC’s decision was condemned by the Hong Kong Bar Association, which labelled the move as the most retrograde step in the implementation of the Basic Law since 1997, the year of the city’s return to Chinese rule.

Over the years, Beijing has heavily interfered in Hong Kong. Its actions include trying to change history courses in school curriculum to praise the mainland’s great successes for propaganda purposes; curbing educational freedom in schools, including private ones; blocking steps towards universal suffrage in elections, excluding pro-democracy lawmakers from the city’s Legislative Council, as well as abducting and arresting people involved in the publishing industry who criticised mainland leaders.

"We haven't even gotten halfway through the 50 year-period during which nothing was supposed to change in Hong Kong, and we're already seen it turn into one country, one system," a protester surnamed Wong told Radio Free Asia.

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