Rally is second in less than a week over central government’s involvement in Legislative Council oath row
By Raymond Yeung
South China Morning Post
Police use pepper spray against a group of protesters near the central government’s liason office. Photo: K. Y. Cheng
Police have used pepper spray in an attempt to disperse protesters outside the central government’s liaison office in Sai Wan as 4,000 gathered to protest against Beijing’s intervention in the oath-taking saga.
Officers engaged in scuffles with some demonstrators after they marched to the office from Wan Chai in a departure from the original plan for the protest, which was supposed to end at the Court of Final Appeal in Central.
The trouble began after Hongkongers opposed to an interpretation of the Basic Lawby Beijing’s top lawmaking body took to the streets for the second time in less than a week to voice their anger with the central government.
At least 13,000 people, many dressed in black and waving colonial-era flags, joined the event, which began at 3pm on Sunday in Wan Chai, according to organisers. Police put the figure at 8,000 however.
At about 7.50pm outside the liaison office on Connaught Road West, police deployed pepper spray multiple times against protesters during a stand-off which saw masked demonstrators charge police barricades.
The crowds had for about 45 minutes been urging the police to open sections of the road to the protesters, who had been confined to the pavement. Officers refused, but in the ensuing chaos protesters spilled into one of two traffic lanes.
Some tried to bring down the barricades while others attempted to climb over them.
After repeated verbal warnings and the display of a red warning banner, police fired pepper spray.
Many ran for cover, while others used umbrellas and protest banners as shields. Those sprayed in the face had their eyes rinsed by fellow protesters.
Several people were then seen being taken away.
At 3.30pm, the participants began marching from Southorn Playground to the Court of Final Appeal in Central, and at 4.30pm they were still leaving the gathering point. Some said they had waited an hour before their section was able to march.
Event organiser Civil Human Rights Front claimed 1,600 people took part in a similar rally it organised on Wednesday evening. Police put the turnout much lower at 750.
Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching – the lawmakers at the centre of the oath controversy – participated as did other members of their party Youngspiration. The group urged people to take to the streets and defend Hong Kong’s core values.
“While not everyone agrees with how Leung and Yau took their oaths, an interpretation [of the Basic Law] and the demise of the separation of powers will affect Hong Kong’s economic prosperity, stability as well as people’s livelihood,” a leaflet handed out at the event read.
As protesters had gathered earlier on Sunday, the mood was subdued and police presence was light with a few arguments breaking out.
They were being joined in spirit by fellow Hongkongers residing in Britain who planned to stage a demonstration outside the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London at 2pm local time to denounce Beijing’s “most blatant violation” of one country, two systems.
“The National People’s Congress Standing Committee’s interpretation is not solely a domestic matter of Hong Kong,” a rally spokesperson said. “It also jeopardises the conditions laid down in the Sino-British Joint Declaration, an international treaty.”
The spokesperson also demanded the British government stop “kowtowing to the Chinese communist party” and re-examine Beijing’s compliance with the declaration.
Meanwhile, Youngspiration again lashed out at Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, accusing him of using the oath row as a political tool to advance his motives.
The city’s leader launched a judicial review in his own name against a decision by Legislative Council president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen to allow the Youngspiration duo to take their oaths again.
But a forthcoming ruling by the city’s High Court could now be overshadowed by an interpretation by the NPCSC, which could come as early as Monday morning.
The Xinhua news agency revealed that Beijing’s top legislative body would “point out the direction in how problems arising from the Legislative Council election” should be handled.
The whole controversy escalated … after the central government decided to step in
But protest participant Chris Cheung, 23, described Beijing’s ability to interpret the Basic Law as a loophole in the city’s judicial system that needed to be closed.
“We can’t totally blame Yau and Leung,” the student said of the localist lawmakers. “The whole controversy escalated in a short span of time only after the central government decided to step in.”
A number of families also attended the march. A father who would only identify himself as ‘Ben’ brought his two children.
“We disagree with [Yau and Leung’s] actions, but why should Beijing shut the door so fast when the court was still handling the judicial review?” he asked.
He said if the Youngspiration duo were ousted, it would be a great injustice to voters who cast their ballots for them.
China Set to Rule on Furor Over Hong Kong Lawmakers — HK Police police use pepper spray to push back protesting crowds (As links to several other related articles)
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