Hong Kong Deploys Thousands of Police Amid Fears of New Protests


2014-12-30
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hong-kong-occupy-clean-up2-dec12-2014.jpg A worker cleans up the Occupy Central camp outside the Legislative Council in Hong Kong, Dec. 12, 2014.
RFA

Hong Kong authorities have mobilized thousands of police ahead of planned celebrations over the New Year, in a bid to stave off a new phase of the Occupy Central pro-democracy movement, which ended earlier this month after police cleared protesters from three main encampments in the semi-autonomous Chinese city.

Police are expecting some 380,000 people to turn out for mass celebrations on Wednesday, as crowds gather to usher in 2015, and are hoping to forestall "walkabout" style democracy protests which have taken the place of the occupation sites in recent weeks.

Some 6,000 officers are being deployed to seal off certain sections of roadway in a bid to prevent a new occupation, police spokesman Kong Man-keung told reporters on Tuesday.

Rights groups said they have been compiling reports from members of the public detailing complaints about police abuse of their powers in the wake of the forceful clearance of the Occupy site on Kowloon's Nathan Road, during which riot police used pepper spray and batons to disperse remaining protesters.

"We have a database, and we are calling on the public to send their reports to us, and then we can analyze the data we have collected," Civil Human Rights Front convenor Daisy Chan told RFA.

"Then we will publish [our analysis], which should be helpful for citizens making complaints [against police] or anyone engaged in legal work," she said.

A handful of occupiers have remained on a side-street not far from the former British colony's Legislative Council (LegCo) for the past two week, with numbers peaking at several hundred.

More than 120 tents and awnings were clustered along a walkway on Tim Mei street not far from government headquarters in Hong Kong's Admiralty district.

"To begin with, there were just five or six tents and awnings, but now there are many times that number, even though it's a very small area," one occupier surnamed Lam told RFA on Tuesday.

"We are all squashed together, and we intend to remain, for tonight at the very least," she said. "They government is treating us as rough-sleepers, but we have told them we will be staying."

But she said the occupiers could still take to the streets in a renewed bid for full democracy in the 2017 election for the next chief executive.

"When it comes to the welfare of the people, then it's politics that has to change," Lam said.

Beijing watching

The attempt to rekindle the last embers of the Occupy movement, which lasted more than two months and brought hundreds of thousands onto the streets at its height, hasn't gone unnoticed by Beijing.

The overseas edition of the People's Daily newspaper, which is directly controlled by the ruling Chinese Communist Party, once more blamed "hostile foreign forces" for the renewed occupation.

"Those who remain have been incited by a small minority of provocateurs," the paper said in a signed commentary on Tuesday. "Their aim is to be able to surround and blockade LegCo or government headquarters whenever they choose."

It called on Hong Kong police to take action to clear the protesters and charge them with obstructing a public highway, unlawful assembly or vagrancy.

The renewed protests come as Hong Kong government officials gear up to meet with student leaders next week, as the next round of public consultations on forthcoming electoral reforms kicks off.

"We will have a dialogue with the chief secretary [Carrie Lam] at the consultation meeting next week," a technical college student, who declined to be named, told RFA.

"We hope she will have some new explanations for us; we will have to see what ... she does next during this round of consultations," he said.

"If ... they refuse to listen to the demands of Hong Kong people, then there will be another Occupy movement," he said.

Occupy Central

Umbrellas, yellow ones in particular, became the symbol of the Occupy Central movement for fully democratic elections in 2017 after protesters used them to ward off tear gas and pepper spray attacks from riot police on Sept. 28, bringing hundreds of thousands of citizens out onto the streets in the days that followed.

The Occupy movement has campaigned for Beijing to withdraw its electoral reform plan, which it says is "fake universal suffrage," and allow publicly nominated candidates to run for chief executive in 2017.

An Aug. 31 decision by China's parliament, the National People's Congress (NPC), decreed that all 5 million of Hong Kong's voters will cast ballots in the 2017 poll, but may only choose between two or three candidates vetted by a Beijing-backed election committee.

Beijing has also criticized international support for the Occupy Central protests, saying that the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration is "void" and that China answers to no one in exercising sovereignty over Hong Kong.

Reported by Xin Lin for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Dai Weisen for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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