Friday, November 22, 2019

Hong Kong on lockdown as China celebrates National Day

Oct 01. 2019
Protesters forming a human chain from Tsim Sha Tsui to Prince Edward in Hong Kong on Sept 30, 2019. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIAN
Protesters forming a human chain from Tsim Sha Tsui to Prince Edward in Hong Kong on Sept 30, 2019. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIAN
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By Claire Huang
The Straits Times/ANN

1,163 Viewed

HONG KONG - The city is on lockdown on Tuesday (Oct 1), with beefed up police presence overnight, suspension of some train stations and multiple malls in clash-prone areas declaring shut, as residents of the territory now on high alert, prepare for a possible showdown between authorities and some hardcore protesters whom the police say puts Hong Kong "on the verge of extreme danger".

Tall water-filled barricades surrounded key government buildings, while the police blocked off certain roads in Wan Chai area from midnight, to limit access to Bauhinia Square where the flag raising ceremony was held at 8am, followed by the National Day Reception at the Convention and Exhibition Centre nearby.

Acting Chief Executive Matthew Cheung said the escalating violence has put greater pressure on an already weak economy. 

"Violence and confrontation are never solutions to problems, " said Mr Cheung. "To resolve the current acute social conflicts, we need more than ever the solidarity of all Hong Kong people to work towards the same goal, seek common ground and accommodate differences."

In his address at the reception, he said citizens here want to get out of this impasse and that the government has displayed the greatest sincerity and wants to have dialogue with the people.

Dozens of malls across the city, including Maritime Square in Tsing Yi, Telford Plaza in Kowloon Bay, Kornhill Plaza in Quarry Bay and Mira Place in Tsim Sha Tsui announced on social media that they will be shut for the day.

Subway operator MTR Corporation Monday night said services at Admiralty, Wan Chai and Prince Edward stations will be suspended on Tuesday.

On Tuesday morning MTR said the trains will skip eight other stops from 11am, including Causeway Bay, Sham Shui Po, Sha Tin and Tsuen Wan. The airport express will skip other stops, heading to Hong Kong station and the airport only from noon.

Overnight, local media reported that the police arrested five men aged 17 to 31 for allegedly making petrol bombs. Another 14 people were detained in Hung Hom and Tuen Mun and police confiscated a bunch of black balloons.

Messages circulated on Telegram called on netizens to gather in Sha Tin at 11.30am to protest and in five other districts - Wan Chai, Sham Shui Po, Tuen Mun, Tsuen Wan and Wong Tai Sin - at 1pm.

On Monday night, the government urged the public not to join unapproved marches, saying "the dangerous acts of extremely violent protesters have become more severe recently to involve highly dangerous actions such as hurling petrol bombs, setting fires and posing an extreme threat to the personal safety of the public".

"According to online information, unauthorised public order events are very likely to take place in various districts in Hong Kong, which may cause severe disruptions. Members of the public are reminded to remain vigilant and mind their own safety," a government spokesman said in a statement.

He added that parents and teachers should also advise younger children and students to remain in safe places.

ro-democracy figures on Monday vowed to hold a march on Tuesday that will start from East Point Road in Causeway Bay to Chater Garden in Central at 1pm.

The secretary-general of the Confederation of Trade Unions Lee Cheuk Yan said they will not apply for a "letter of no objection" for the event as Hong Kong people's freedom to protest is already enshrined in the Basic Law and does not require authorities' green light, local media reported.

This planned protest comes after a proposed rally and march along the same route by the Civil Human Rights Front were rejected by the police and an appeal board.

On Monday morning, Chief Executive Carrie Lam led a delegation of over 240 people from Hong Kong to Beijing for Tuesday's National Day celebrations to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. Among the attendees are Justice Secretary Teresa Cheng and Health Secretary Sophia Chan.

Mrs Lam will return to Hong Kong Tuesday evening via Shenzhen.

The territory's activities to mark National Day is a muted affair this year with the fireworks show cancelled and the flag-raising ceremony to be viewed indoors as with celebrations on July 1.

This, as Hong Kong has been roiled in 17 straight weekends of protests, of which most ended up in clashes between police and protesters.

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