Police have fired teargas at protesters in Hong Kong after nearly 200 political figures from around the world condemned China’s plans for new security laws.
Hundreds of demonstraters clashed with security officials in Hong Kong’s Wanchai district on Sunday over Beijing’s proposals to set up government intelligence bases in the territory.
Protesters were seen cowering behind umbrellas as officers with shields fired the gas to try to disperse crowds of activists and journalists carrying “Free Hong Kong” signs.
China says it wants to prevent a repeat of last year’s riots, which were triggered by a bill that would have allowed islanders to be extradited to the mainland.
Image: Protesters in masks were forced to flee when police fired teargas at them in Wanchai, Hong Kong on Sunday
Image: One activist is seen running away from crowds
Image: Police with riot shields try to disperse crowds in Wanchai
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The government says the laws are necessary to “prevent, stop and punish” such protests in the future, after the last demonstrations crippled the territory for months.
Leading democracy activist Joshua Wong defended the decision to protest in violation of Hong Kong’s ban on gatherings of more than eight people amid the coronavirus outbreak.
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He described the security proposals as the “beginning of the end” and said “time is really running out” for the pro-democracy movement.
International tension over the security legislation is rising fast, with 17 members of US congress joining those criticising the move across the world.
Image: Activists in masks carry “Free Hong Kong” signs
Image: Protesters wear masks amid coronavirus restrictions in Hong Kong
In a joint statement organised by former Hong Kong Governor Chris Patten and former British foreign secretary Malcolm Rifkind, 186 law and policy leaders said the proposed laws are a “comprehensive assault on the city’s autonomy and rule of law”.
They say the laws threaten “fundamental freedoms” and are a “flagrant breach” of the Sino-British Joint Declaration that returned Hong Kong to China in 1997.
“If the international community cannot trust Beijing to keep its word when it comes to Hong Kong, people will be reluctant to take its word on other matters,” they wrote.
The legislation comes as the relationship between Washington and Beijing is at a low ebb after Donald Trump blamed China for the COVID-19 pandemic.
US officials have said the Chinese legislation would be bad for the economies of both Hong Kong and China and could jeopardise the territory’s special status in US law.
China has dismissed other countries’ complaints as meddling.
Image: Democracy activist Joshua Wong (pictured in November) defended today’s protests
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Some of the US president’s fellow Republicans – Senator Marco Rubio, acting chairman of the Intelligence Committee, and Senator Ted Cruz – signed the statement.
Democratic signatories included Senator Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Representatives Eliot Engel, head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Adam Schiff, chairman of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee.
In London, 44 MPs and eight members of the House of Lords also signed the statement, alongside figures from across Europe, Asia, Australia and North America.
Source : Sky News