The first approved Hong Kong protest since 2020 has been held under heavy official supervision.
The protest was limited to 100 people and everyone was required to wear number tags.
Residents of Hong Kong have a legal right to free assembly and a long tradition of protests but the Chinese Government has severely restricted since a major crackdown on freedoms in 2020.
Hong Kong history
Britain controlled Hong Kong from 1842 and signed a 99-year ‘lease’ to retain part of its territory from China in 1898.
Hong Kong was returned to Chinese control in 1997 but with an agreement that it would retain some aspects of democracy for 50 years under an arrangement called “one country, two systems”.
In 2019 and 2020, widespread protests for greater democratic freedoms were met with a harsh crackdown from Chinese authorities.
National Security Laws restrict protests
A key component of China’s response to the Hong Kong protests was the introduction of new National Security Laws in 2020, which effectively restricted a number of freedoms including freedom of assembly.
No approved protests have been held in Hong Kong since that time, in part because of the National Security Laws and also because of strict COVID restrictions.
Protest held under strict supervision
This week’s protest, against a local development project, had to receive official approval to proceed. The number of attendees and their conduct were strictly controlled.
It comes after a planned women’s rights protest was cancelled by the organisers earlier this month for unspecified reasons.
It’s estimated that several thousand people involved in the 2019-20 protests are still awaiting trial.
This includes 47 high-profile democracy activists who have spent years in jail while their trials have been continuously delayed. They could be sentenced to life in prison. Last year, Human Rights Watch said the trials were “politically motivated” and called on authorities to “immediately” release the activists.