15 November 2018
Police pepper-spray protesters outside the Liaison Office on Sunday. Photo: Reuters
Police pepper-spray protesters outside the Liaison Office on Sunday. Photo: Reuters

HK police, protesters clash over Beijing decision on localists

Protesters ended an hours-long standoff with police outside China’s Liaison Office early on Monday, following clashes with officers after Beijing decided to interpret the Basic Law in a way that would ban pro-independence activists from the legislature.

Empty buses and trams were stuck on blocked roads Sunday night as demonstrators, some wearing face masks and chanting “Hong Kong independence”, threatened to stay all night, Bloomberg reports.

The demonstration finally ended just before 3 a.m.

Earlier, police used pepper spray on protesters who tried to breach police lines. Two men were arrested, police said in a press release posted on their website.

Organizers said a peaceful march in the afternoon attracted 13,000 people, putting it among the largest in the territory since the Occupy movement blocked commercial districts two years ago. Police put the figure at 8,000.

Nathan Law Kwun-chung of the pro-democracy youth group Demosistō urged those at the scene to leave as hundreds of police with shields and helmets pushed ahead against protesters walking backward trying to avoid clashes.

As soon as Monday, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee in Beijing could issue the rare interpretation of Hong Kong law, which China’s top legislative body deemed “timely and necessary” amid growing pro-independence activities, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

The move came amid a court battle over whether a pair of localist activists who were elected to the city’s legislature in September could take their seats after insulting China in their oaths of office.

The Basic Law declares Hong Kong an “inalienable part” of China and requires lawmakers to swear an oath to uphold the law.

Legislators-elect Sixtus “Baggio” Leung, 30, and Yau Wai-ching, 25, had their oaths voided on Oct. 12 after mispronouncing the country’s name and unfurling banners proclaiming “Hong Kong IS NOT China.”

While the committee meets behind closed doors and hasn’t released a draft, lawyers and democracy advocates have warned that the intervention could undermine Hong Kong’s courts and spark unrest.

The move would represent only the second unilateral change of local law since the city’s return in 1997 on a promise to maintain “one country, two systems” for 50 years, the report said.

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Police officers stop demonstrators from breaching their line. Photo: Reuters

A demonstrator is detained by police during the protest. Photo: Reuters

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