HK opposition groups warned on gatherings
Assembly tramples on public health for political goals
Published: Sep 06, 2020 09:44 PM

HK LegCo File photo:VCG

Adding fuel to the fire of Hong Kong's coronavirus flare-up, opposition groups organized illegal gatherings in Kowloon on Sunday morning, which were held under the guise of protesting postponed Legislative Council (LegCo) elections and the national security law. 

Experts said that the gatherings exposed opposition groups' "cold-blooded" trampling on the city's public health to gain their selfish political goals, but they won't succeed after enactment of the national security law, so that they should discard the old trick of achieving what they want by pushing the city to turmoil.

On Sunday afternoon, protestors gathered and chanted slogans in Yaumatei and Jordan, under the excuse of opposing the postponed LegCo elections and national security law. They did not apply to the police beforehand, which constituted breaches of the Public Order Ordinance and the Prevention and Control of Disease (Prohibition on Group Gathering) Regulation, Hong Kong police said on Facebook. 

Some rioters threw projectiles including umbrellas, bottles and hard objects toward police officers. At least 289 people were arrested in Yaumatei and Mongkok; three (two males and one female) were arrested for disorderly conduct, possession of a part I poison, breaching the national security law by chanting secessionist slogans, and resisting and obstructing a police officer, said police. 

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government strongly condemned the illegal assembly in Kowloon on Sunday, including throwing hard objects at police and chanting secessionist slogans. The government reiterated that the police will take swift law enforcement action.

The liaison office of the central government in HKSAR also said that it firmly supports the Hong Kong government and police in enforcing the law, in response to the flare-up of protests. After enactment of the national security law, Hong Kong society has experienced a positive changes from chaos to stability, said the office, warning small groups of rioters that the authorities have zero tolerance for anyone who attempts to shake the city's stability. 

Using the postponement of the LegCo election, a decision made to guarantee the justice of the election, to take to the streets on Sunday, exposed the rioters' public defiance of the law and state will, and neglect of public health, said the liaison office, which strongly condemned such behavior.

Prominent anti-government lawmakers such as Leung Kwok-hung and Raphael Wong were among those arrested, under the charge of illegal assembly, the police said.

The arrest of Leung and others, who breached the national security law, even after most rioters were intimidated by the law and refrained from further throwing the city into deeper chaos, shows that factors that strive to shake the city's stability still exist, Fan Peng, a member of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong & Macao Studies, told the Global Times.

Fan said that if the rioters still hold the illusion of achieving their goals by making a fuss, they are wrong, as HKSAR is equipped with the national security law and the opposition groups should discard  old tricks by disrupting the city to get what they want. 

In order to maintain social order, Hong Kong police dispatched roughly 2,000 officers to cope with the protest, and acted swiftly against those who resorted to violence. 

Akin to what was commonly seen at anti-government protests in 2019, many of which turned into riots and citywide rampages, when the police enforced the law on Sunday afternoon, asking protesters to stop their illegal gathering, a group of so-called journalists, many in yellow vests, was seen standing in front of police officers. By taking pictures and trying to argue with the police, some were considered as "being helpers" for black-clad protesters, as they hindered the police from doing dispersal work, as some online footage showed. 

"This scenario further indicated that our local media needs to be put under regulation," Kennedy Wong Ying-ho, solicitor of the Supreme Court of Hong Kong, told the Global Times, noting that he didn't even want to mention teenagers who also called themselves "journalists." 

Some netizens said online that compared with US police officers' method of dealing with riots, Hong Kong police are "too gentle." When taking control of the streets, police in the US city of Portland made several arrests at the scene of the nightly protests, as many reporters claimed they were doing their job and law enforcement was hindering that work. Police said that protesters have masqueraded as journalists and then set fires or threw fireworks, making it a struggle to figure out who is a real reporter during the pandemonium. 

There have been rising calls in Hong Kong to further regulate the local media, for some have been instigating violence and anti-government riots. For example, the local newspaper Apple Daily has published stories based on groundless accusations targeted at the police and the HKSAR government, having a negative influence on local residents, especially teenagers. 

"The coronavirus epidemic is still spreading in communities with some cases having unknown origins. Such illegal gatherings will definitely cast a shadow on the city's joint efforts to fight COVID-19, putting millions of Hong Kong residents at risk," Wong said.