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Kongers protest

500,000 Hong Kongers cast ‘protest’ vote against new security laws – Reuters

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong’s opposition camp said on Sunday that over 600,000 citizens in the Chinese-ruled city cast ballots over the weekend in primaries it cast as a symbolic protest vote against tough national security laws imposed by Beijing.

The unofficial poll will decide the strongest pro-democracy candidates to contest elections in September to Hong Kong’s Legislative Council. Then, they aim to seize majority control for the first time from pro-Beijing rivals by riding a wave of anti-China sentiment stirred by the law, which critics say has gravely undermined Hong Kong’s freedoms.

While the primaries are only for the opposition camp, the level of participation is seen as a guide to popular opinion in the city of 7.5 million people, a major financial hub.

“A high turnout will send a very strong signal to the international community, that we Hong Kongers never give up,” said Sunny Cheung, 24, one of a batch of aspiring young democrats out lobbying and giving stump speeches.

“And that we still stand with the democratic camp, we still support democracy and freedom.”

Defying warnings from a senior Hong Kong official that the vote might fall foul of the national security law, residents young and old flocked to over 250 polling stations across the city, manned by thousands of volunteers.

Long queues formed, with people voting via their mobile phones after having their identities verified.

“SEE THE COURAGE”

Organisers said 592,000 people had voted online, and 21,000 had cast paper ballots at the end of two full days of polling, – more than expected, and representing around a third of voters who backed the democrats in an election last year.

“Even under the shadow of the national security law, there were still 600,000 people coming out,” said an organiser, Au Nok-hin. “You can see the courage of the Hong Kong people in this … Hong Kongers have created another miracle.”

The new law punishes what China describes broadly as secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison and allows mainland security agents to operate officially in Hong Kong for the first time.

Despite this tactical vote to maximise their chances, some pro-democracy activists fear authorities may yet try to stop some candidates from running in September’s election.

“They can arrest or disqualify any candidate they don’t like under the national security law without a proper reason,” said Owen Chow, a young democratic “localist” candidate.

Slideshow (3 Images)

At a time when Hong Kong authorities have barred public marches and rallies for months on end amid coronavirus social restrictions, and arrested individuals for shouting slogans and holding up blank sheets of paper, the vote was seen as a crucial and rare window for populist expression.

“I can really feel that young people haven’t given up yet, even though we are facing a very depressing future,” said Prince Wong, 22, a candidate in the New Territories West district.

“It helps me become more determined to fight.”

Writing by James Pomfret; Editing by Catherine Evans

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Kongers march

Hong Kongers march in silent protest against national security laws – NBC News

HONG KONG — Hundreds of Hong Kongers marched silently through the city’s streets on Sunday in protest against the looming national security legislation to be implemented by the mainland Chinese government.

Riot police armed with shields were present as the crowd moved from Jordan to Mong Kok in the Kowloon district, as part of a “silent protest,” in which they marched but the usual chanting or slogan shouting was mainly absent.

The proposed national security laws were discussed by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee on Sunday in Beijing at a three-day meeting.

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The laws are expected to be passed before the end of June but a draft has yet to be made public.

“I am here to oppose the national security laws,” said Esther, 25 who was on the streets of Jordan on Sunday.

“It’s not the last battle, there is a long term resistance (to the laws).”

The event came a day after Hong Kong police refused permission for an annual march that is held on July 1 to mark the handover of the city from Britain to Chinese authorities twenty three years ago.

Police cited in a statement that a march would be in violation of Hong Kong’s current ban of groups of more than 50 people gathering which was put in place as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

A survey conducted by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute for Reuters showed the national security legislation is opposed by a majority of people in the financial center.

It also showed support for protests dropping to 51 percent from 58 percent in June compared to a previous poll conducted for Reuters in March, while opposition to them rose to 34 percent from 28 percent.

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Kongers Thousands

Thousands of Hong Kongers defy police ban to remember Tiananmen Square – CNN

Hong Kong (CNN)Thousands of Hong Kongers defied a police ban Thursday to gather in the city’s Victoria Park and mark the 31st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

The rally, which has been held every year since the 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in China, had been banned over coronavirus fears, a move many viewed as political in a city where infections are down to a handful per month.
Early Thursday evening however, hundreds and then thousands of people defied the order, as well as signs and fences around Victoria Park, to occupy two large football pitches where the rally has been traditionally held. While numbers appeared down on previous years, and the usually well-organized memorial had a rather chaotic impromptu feel, they were by no means negligible, a major sign of defiance to Beijing.
Lee Cheuk-yan, an organizer and former lawmaker, led the crowd in chants of “end one-party rule,” and “democracy for China!”
Others chanted slogans from last year’s anti-government protests, including “fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong,” and a more recent refrain, “Hong Kong independence, the only way out.”
Those slogans could be illegal in the near future, as Beijing moves to impose a draconian national security law banning sedition, secession and separatism. Similar laws have been used to crack down on dissidents and pro-democracy activists in China.
That impending law is currently being drafted in Beijing and will be imposed automatically in Hong Kong via a rarely used constitutional backdoor, bypassing the city’s legislature. The law hung over this year’s Tiananmen memorial even before the event was officially banned, as both opposition and pro-government figures have predicted similar rallies could be illegal in future.
Hong Kong has long been the only place on Chinese soil where a mass commemoration of the June 4 crackdown is held. This fact has been a litmus test of sorts for the city’s autonomy from China, which has shrunk considerably in recent years, culminating in the national security law, which Beijing has said is necessary to prevent the type of violent unrest seen last year.
That unrest had been resuming as Hong Kong came out of the coronavirus crisis, and social distancing regulations relaxed. But police had responded to earlier protests with overwhelming numbers, and used tear gas and pepper spray to disperse several gatherings in recent weeks.
Thursday saw a complete reversal in tactics, as police stayed largely out of sight as several thousand people ignored fences and signs to gather illegally in Victoria Park. It was a striking contrast, perhaps a deliberate one, with protests in the US, which Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam on Tuesday pointed at to accuse critics of hers in Washington of “double standards.”
Crowds began dispersing soon after 8 p.m. local time, following the lighting of candles and a moment of silence to remember the hundreds, possibly thousands, who were killed in the Tiananmen crackdown.
At its peak, the crowd spilled across two football pitches, and while there were considerably more gaps than in previous years, it was a major display of defiance in a city that has seemed somewhat shell-shocked in recent weeks by news of the national security law.
The next major test, of both the pro-democracy movement and the authorities, will come as early as next week, which sees two key anniversaries of last year’s protest movement.
About 1 million people marched against an extradition bill with China on June 9, 2019, while three days later, protesters blockaded the city’s legislature and clashed with police to prevent the law being passed. It was eventually withdrawn in September 2019, by which point the anti-government movement had grown substantially, with its goals expanded beyond a single bill.

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