03/27/2023, 13.57
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Hong Kong: bans and restrictions mark first protest march in over 2 years

Limits on the number of participants, pre-determined spaces, identification tags and control of banners. Public demonstrations blocked by the passing of the security law. Even with withdrawal of health protocols for the pandemic there is little room for public dissent. March by a group in defence of women's rights cancelled earlier this month.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - A maximum of 100 people; identification tags; uncovered faces; a cordon to mark the route; control of banners and placards. These were the conditions imposed by the city police yesterday to allow the first public protest in over two years, since the national security law imposed by Beijing to silence the democratic opposition came into force.

As noted by several media, the restrictions discouraged participation: according to the organisers, there were about 80 protesters. They marched in the eastern district of Tseung Kwan O to protest against a government land reclamation project, which includes the construction of a waste treatment facility.

According to several observers, the security measure is so wide-ranging that it can target all kinds of behaviour. As of December 2022, there are 227 people arrested under the draconian law; 135 with at least one indictment.

The city's mini-Constitution (Basic Law) actually ensures freedom of expression. In order to block demonstrations of dissent, the authorities have also often resorted to Covid-19 sanitary restrictions. After the central government decided in December to abandon the zero-Covid policy desired by Xi Jinping, Hong Kong also dropped the last anti-pandemic restrictions.

With the reopening, it now remains to be seen whether the executive of the former British colony will agree to the holding of the usual demonstrations organised by the democratic camp. In 2022, for the third consecutive year, the city authorities banned the annual vigil in Victoria Park for the victims of the Tiananmen massacre. On 4 June 1989, the Chinese leadership had ordered the massacre in Beijing of thousands of students and citizens demanding freedom and democracy in the country.

The traditional First of July march has not been held since 2020. The first one, in 2003, had gathered 500,000 people: it was against an anti-subversion law proposed by Tung Chee-hwa's city government.

The signs are not encouraging for the pro-democracy front, already decimated by arrests and convictions. At the beginning of the month, a women's rights group cancelled a public rally after the police had summoned the organisers several times.

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