Hong Kong authorities on Monday rejected an appeal for a major pro-democracy march on China’s National Day holiday after two straight days of violent clashes between protesters and police raised fears of more showdowns that could embarrass Beijing.
The Civil Human Rights Front, which has organized several major rallies in recent months, said an appeals board upheld a police ban on Tuesday’s march in the city centre. The group warned that denying a peaceful avenue for protesters could accelerate violence because citizens will turn up anyway, as they’ve done in past when rallies were banned.
Apart from the march, other rallies are also planned in multiple locations.
“Hong Kong is losing its freedom of speech and assembly. Hong Kong is becoming more and more like a police state, like a tyranny like Beijing,” said Bonnie Leung, the Civil Human Rights Front co-ordinator.
Violence erupted over the weekend in what has become familiar cycle since the protests began in June over a now-shelved extradition bill and have since escalated into an anti-China movement. Many people view Beijing as chipping away at the autonomy and freedoms Hong Kong was promised when the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
Local media reported that several people, including an actor and activist, were detained early Monday over their participation in the months-long protests. Police couldn’t immediately confirm this when contacted by The Associated Press.
On Saturday and Sunday, riot police repeatedly fired water cannons and volleys of tear gas after demonstrators hurled Molotov cocktails at officers, targeted the city’s government office complex and set off street fires.
The melee crippled the city’s shopping and business district for hours on Sunday as protesters clashed with police until late in the night. Police said an officer fired a bullet in the air to ward off protesters surrounding him.
Local media reported that more than 100 people were detained and more than two dozen others, including a journalist, were injured. Police in a statement Monday slammed the violence and vowed to step up enforcement to safeguard public safety.
Many protesters are planning to go out on the street again Tuesday, wearing black as posters call for Oct. 1 to be marked as “A Day of Grief.”
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam left earlier Monday with a delegation of 240 people to participate in National Day festivities in Beijing. Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung will represent Lam until she returns Tuesday evening.
Celebration has been muted in Hong Kong, with the government cancelling an annual firework display and moving a reception indoors. Security is expected to be tight to prevent any ugly scenes that might embarrass Chinese President Xi Jinping as his ruling Communist Party marks 70 years since taking power.
The protracted unrest has battered Hong Kong’s economy, with businesses suffering and tourism plunging.
Norman Chan, the outgoing chief of Hong Kong’s Monetary Authority, said earlier Monday that the city’s monetary and financial systems remained stable due to healthy buffers but warned the unrest is spooking investors.