Frustration for Hong Kong protesters trying to catch Xi’s eye
Activists say city has become a ‘police state’ amid tight security and claims of members being tailed
It was a day of frustration for activists calling for greater democracy in Hong Kong and the release of prominent mainland dissident Liu Xiaobo as they were unable to catch visiting President Xi Jinping’s eye or make their voices heard by him.
They ended up complaining that the unprecedented security blanket had turned Hong Kong into a “police state”. A separatist group planning a public rally to “mourn the fall of Hong Kong” was forced to call off its plans.
On Friday night, about 20 activists from the Civil Human Rights Front defied police orders and staged a rally outside the Central Plaza in Wan Chai, instead of staying in the designated protest zone at Telecom House.
The Central Plaza is opposite the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai, where Xi held meetings.
Front convenor Au Nok-hin said: “We want Xi to release Liu Xiaobo immediately. It is the demand of Hong Kong’s people. Xi should listen to them.”
Liu , the jailed dissident who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, is on medical parole to treat his late-stage cancer.
Earlier on Friday, members of Au’s group unfurled a six-metre-long black banner from a 13th-floor flat in Sai Ying Pun that read: “Investigate the UGL” and “Send Wolf Leung on a journey”, to mark the last day of Leung Chun-ying’s tenure as Hong Kong’s chief executive.
The slogans refer to a controversy stemming from Leung’s acceptance of payment from Australian engineering firm UGL.
Au said the residential building, about 400 metres from Beijing’s liaison office in the city, was chosen because they thought Xi’s motorcade would pass through the district on his way to the office.
But Xi did not go to the location on Friday and the group packed up after police intervened within minutes of a complaint.
On the other side of the harbour in Tsim Sha Tsui, the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party hastily called off its planned rally “to mourn the fall of Hong Kong” on Friday night.
Party convenor Andy Chan Ho-tin had earlier vowed to go ahead with the rally without a permit. Police had banned it on grounds that calls for independence breached the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution.
Chan held a press conference at a small courtyard at Baptist University with the heads of six university student unions accusing police of trampling on their right to free speech and assembly.
Tight security had been in place well before Xi landed in the city on Thursday.
On Wednesday night, police arrested 26 protesters for “public nuisance” for staging a sit-in at Golden Bauhinia Square in Wan Chai. The protesters accused police of dragging their feet in taking statements so as to prevent them from staging more protests. They claimed the last protester was not released on bail until dawn on Friday.
“This was an unreasonable detention … and we condemn the use of such procedural loopholes to strip us of our rights and freedoms,” Demosisto’s Joshua Wong Chi-fung, one of the 26 protesters, said.
Another arrested protester, League of Social Democrats chairman Avery Ng Man-yuen, claimed at least two of his party members were tailed by “thugs” after their release.
“Hong Kong has turned into a police-thug state and the police are using these thugs to suppress opposition voices,” said Ng, who also posted a video clip on his Facebook page on Friday showing two cars parked near his home. Ng claimed five people stood at different spots, watching him.
“They don’t look like Hong Kong police,” Ng said in the video.
Additional reporting by Elizabeth Cheung