Hong Kong police have arrested and detained over 400 people on charges including illegal assembly and possession of offensive weapons after a New Year’s Day protests. The peaceful pro-democracy march of tens of thousands had turned violent, with police firing tear gas to disperse the crowd.
With demonstrators smashing windows and destroying ATMs at an HSBC branch in Wan Chai bar district, the police asked organizers to call off the march and dispersed the crowd with teargas and water cannon truck.
Wednesday’s arrest has brought the total of arrest made by Hong Kong police to about 7,000 in the last couple of months. In the last eight months, Hong Kong has experienced series of demonstrations triggered by the introduction of the Fugitive Offenders amendment bill by the Hong Kong government.
If enacted, the bill would have allowed the extradition of criminal fugitives who are wanted in territories with which Hong Kong does not currently have extradition agreements, including Taiwan and mainland China. This has led to concerns that the bill would subject Hong Kong residents and visitors to the jurisdiction and legal system of mainland China, thereby undermining the region’s autonomy and Hong Kong people’s civil liberties.
As the protests progressed, the protesters laid out five key demands, namely the withdrawal of the bill, investigation into alleged police brutality and misconduct, the release of arrested protesters, a complete retraction of the official characterisation of the protests as “riots”, and Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s resignation along with the introduction of universal suffrage for election of the Legislative Council and the Chief Executive.
On 4 September, Carrie Lam announced the formal withdrawal of the extradition bill and the introduction of additional measures to calm the situation. However, protests continued to insist on all five demands being met.
Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region in China. Since Britain handed over Hong Kong to China, the region has maintained its autonomy. Hong Kong has its currency, the Hong Kong dollars, a Separate Government and an Independent Judicial system.
Meanwhile, an Hong Kong Government spokesperson has said: “Hong Kong is being used as a pawn by some in the west to further their own agendas.”