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Hong Kong police silence expressions of dissent on China’s National Day

China’s National Day has previously been a day of pro-democracy expression in Hong Kong but this year thousands of police officers smothered most forms of protest and free expression.

China marks its founding on October 1, but last year saw heavy clashes between protesters and Hong Kong police anti-government violence following the impostition of national security legislation earlier in the year. Thousands of protesters took to the streets to directly challenge China’s increasing leverage over their city.

This year, anti-government protests have become smaller as the authorities increased police presence citing coronavirus and used the Beijing imposed National Security law to silence pro-democracy demonstrations. Subsequently, activists have been forced to seek creative ways to express discontent such as publicly reading the pro-democracy newspaper, Apple Daily with slogans stating, “Protect the children, hold on to your conscience.”

Police continued to round up and search dozens of people at a time, targeting young people wearing protest colours and arresting at least 60 people, under suspicion of protest.

Police warned demonstrators that they were violating a ban on gatherings of over four people. However, police did not deter groups of pro-government supporters gathering in the Wan Chai district to sing the Chinese national anthem. Luo Huining, the director of China’s representative office in Hong Kong said in a speech before the holiday, “As a Chinese person, loving the country is not a choice, but a duty and the right course.”

Last month, prominent pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong, was arrested by Hong Kong police for his participation in an unauthorised assembly in October 2019 and for violating the city's anti-mask law. 

“No matter what happens,” Wong said, “I will still continue to resist and hope to let the world to know how Hong Kongers choose not to surrender.”

Since the National Security law came into effect on June 30, and Beijing has had unfound power to shape life in Hong Kong, by eliminating protests and limiting freedoms of expression. The police have already arrested more than 20 people under the new law citing political crimes. Leading many activists fleeing the city under fear of arrest.

Read more from the New York Times here and here. 

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