23 February 2019
Occupy Central convenor Chan Kin-man says participants should strictly follow protest rules and avoid violence. Photo: HKEJ
Occupy Central convenor Chan Kin-man says participants should strictly follow protest rules and avoid violence. Photo: HKEJ

Police to hang back but move quickly if protest turns ugly

Police will stop Occupy Central protesters from reentering key areas in Hong Kong’s main business and financial district if they break up to skirt a seven-hour window when they could be liable for obstruction.

Also, they will be in no rush to clear out the protesters on Oct. 1 and Oct. 2, which are both public holidays during which Chater Road is pedestrianized from 7 a.m. to midnight, Sing Tao Daily reported Thursday.

But officers will move in if there is violence and if the protesters are still around by the next morning when people go back to work and all roads reopen to vehicular traffic.

Government sources said they don’t expect the protest to last long and any action after the two-day holiday could spark complaints from the public.

These will force organizers to shorten their occupation of Central, making it possible for the police to move less forcefully on the protesters, the sources were quoted as saying.     

Meanwhile, Occupy Central convenor Cha Kin-man urged participants to strictly follow orders from organizers and observe protest rules including not wearing masks, not resisting arrest and not fighting officers, according to the Hong Kong Economic Journal.

He warned that the protest will be called off if there is violence.

Chan said it would take the police three days to clear the protest area if there is no untoward incident.

And Civic Party leader Alan Leong warned that any violence would give the police reason to use force and the government to implement extreme measures including martial law.

Occupy Central has yet to announce a date for the sit-in but some protest leaders said it could take place on Oct. 1, China’s national day, after a planned pro-democracy march by Civil Human Rights Front.

Several Occupy Central leaders said the group will join the march but stopped short of saying whether the planned sit-in protest will follow, as happened after the July 1 march which ended in an overnight vigil in Chater Road, resulting in dozens of arrests.

Civil Human Rights Front is awaiting permission from the government to hold the march, convenor Johnson Yeung was quoted as saying.

He accused the government of dragging its feet on the group’s application and said alternative arrangements might have to be made because of competing bookings for Victoria Park, the staging area of the rally.

The march and the sit-in protest are the highlight of what activists say is the beginning of an era of civil disobedience to protest Beijing’s decision to curtail Hong Kong’s choice for its next leader.

A proposed election reform package announced by the National People’s Congress last month will next come to a vote in the Legislative Council where it needs a two-thirds majority to pass.

Pan-democratic lawmakers who are opposed to the proposal are expected to join the protest and have vowed to risk arrest.

Some activists said police could delay any such arrests until just before the vote.

Legco President Jasper Tsang could then allow the vote by two-thirds of attendees instead of two-third of legislators, they said.     

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