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Hong Kong police arrest hundreds in protests

September 6, 2020

Hong Kong police have arrested nearly 300 demonstrators who took to the streets in anger over delayed elections. The territory's leader has blamed the coronavirus pandemic; protesters fear further pressure from Beijing.

Hong Kong police warn people to clear the street
Image: Reuters/T. Siu

Police in Hong Kong have arrested almost 300 people during anti-government demonstrations organized to protest delayed elections that were set to take place on Sunday.

Most of the demonstrators had been detained on suspicion of "illegal assembly," the police department wrote on social media.

They include two prominent activists, Figo Chan of the group Civil Human Rights Front and veteran legislator and democracy activist Leung Kwok-hung, known as "Long Hair," the dpa news agency reported.

Another woman was arrested on the city's Kowloon peninsula for chanting pro-independence slogans.

Police wrote on their Facebook page that she is accused of "violating the Hong Kong National Security Act."

Protesters hit with pepper balls

Security forces also fired pepper balls at protesters in the Mong Kok neighborhood of Kowloon, according to the South China Morning Post.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam used emergency powers in July to postpone the vote until next year, citing an increase in the number of coronavirus cases.

But the territory has reported around 4,800 coronavirus cases since January, far lower than in other major cities around the world.

Read more: Taiwan 'determined' to play international role, despite Chinese pressure

Government critics believe her pro-Beijing administration simply wants to tighten its grip on power. The pro-democracy opposition had hoped to win several seats on Hong Kong's Legislative Council.

Half the seats are directly elected. The other half are appointed positions, which are largely loyal to the Chinese government.

Protests show no sign of ending

The former British colony has been rocked by ongoing demonstrations for more than a year. They first erupted in April 2019 after leaders proposed a controversial law enabling extradition to China.

Read more: UN calls for independent review of Hong Kong security law

Protesters have accused Beijing of flouting a 1984 deal with the United Kingdom that promised the territory greater autonomy from the Chinese mainland and greater democratic reform.

In July, US President Donald Trump ended Washington's preferential trade status for Hong Kong, which dates to its time under British rule. The US said the proposed security law was a threat to Hong Kong's autonomy and its goods would be subject to the same tariffs as mainland China.

Read more: China, HK slam US for suspending tax and extradition agreement

Britain returned Hong Kong to China in 1997; the special "one country, two systems" status both governments agreed for the territory is set to expire in 2047.

jf/mm (AFP, dpa, Reuters)