BBC News – World
The 22nd anniversary of Hong Kong’s retrocession to China dawned Monday with gray skies, clashes between protesters and riot police, and news of another tragic death.
Local media reported late Sunday that a 29-year-old woman had fallen to her death from the retail podium of the International Finance Centre, after leaving a Facebook post saying that she would not be attending a massive anti-government march planned for today but encouraging Hongkongers to ga yau. Literally meaning “add oil,” in the sense of injecting fuel into a tank, the Cantonese phrase is a common exhortation among protesters.
Her death follows that of a 21-year-old student, who fell from a building yesterday after leaving a note calling for the resignation of the semi-autonomous enclave’s embattled top official, Chief Executive Carrie Lam, and a 35-year-old man who died on June 15 after unfurling a protest banner on the side of a shopping mall. Memorials for all three are planned today.
The deteriorating security situation meanwhile forced a humiliating scaling down of a flag-raising ceremony meant to be a focus of national pride. Some 5,000 police, including armed marine police, were deployed to put on lockdown the area around the waterfront Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, where VIPs were gathered to watch on closed-circuit television the ceremony taking place outside.
Lam looked uncomfortable and, during the toast, drank only a sip from her glass before passing it to an attendant. Democratic legislator Helena Wong heckled her speech and was evicted from the ceremony.
The government said the indoor location was to spare guests from having to stand in the drizzle, but there could only have been relief that dignitaries were shielded from the noisy unrest occurring less than a kilometer away. Street clashes began in the early morning. Black-clad protesters attempted to march on the Convention Centre but were repelled by police. They also occupied Harcourt Road and Lung Wo Road—major thoroughfares in the political heart of the city—where police responded with pepper spray and batons. Nearby subway stations were shuttered.
The disturbances come ahead of a massive march this afternoon. The march is ostensibly to call for the withdrawal of a proposed law that would allow, for the first time, extradition to mainland China. (The government says the law is necessary to prevent Hong Kong from becoming a haven for criminals; detractors say Beijing will use it to order the arrest of dissidents and critics.) However, opposition to the bill has since snowballed into a broad push for greater democracy and a repudiation of China itself.
The furore over the bill has also laid bare political faultlines in the former British colony. Monday’s clashes come in the wake of an angry rally Sunday that saw pro-government mobs abuse and assault journalists and foreigners. Scuffles and tense standoffs also took place with democracy protesters in the area around the legislature and central government offices.
—With reporting by Kamakshi Ayaar, Abhishyant Kidangoor and Hillary Leung / Hong Kong
World – TIME
Reuters: World News