(RepublicanInformer.com)- On the July 1 anniversary commemorating the 1997 handover of Hong Kong from British colonial rule over to China, Hong Kong police sealed off the city’s Victoria Park. Police alleged that online chatter urging for unauthorized assemblies in the recreation area prompted the shutdown.
It has become customary for Hong Kong residents to stage “handover” marches every July 1 originating at Victory Park, however, the Hong Kong police also prohibited this traditional demonstration for the second year in a row.
While Hong Kong officials claim the marches are prohibited due to coronavirus restrictions on large gatherings, they are more likely preventing these marches as part of China’s sweeping crackdown against opposition prompted by the spate of pro-democracy demonstration that erupted two years ago.
According to Radio Television Hong Kong, barricades were set up around Victoria Park’s soccer pitches, basketball courts and along the central lawn. Large banners were put up that warned people they would be prosecuted for entering the area. Inside the barriered park, dozens of officers were seen patrolling.
VIDEO: Hong Kong police close main park to 'prevent crime' on the anniversary of the 1997 handover and as China marks the centenary of the Communist Party.
Hong Kong police cordoned off Victoria Park, ordering those playing sports or relaxing in the area to leave pic.twitter.com/STdpTgz6YD
— AFP News Agency (@AFP) July 1, 2021
Any person entering the park or found in the closed area was subject to a maximum penalty of 12 months in prison.
Hong Kong Police Senior Superintendent Liauw Ka-kei claims the decision to seal off Victoria Park was to “ensure public order.”
Radio Television Hong Kong, citing anonymous sources the day before, said the Hong Kong Police Force was deploying over 10,000 officers across the city on to prevent public gatherings on the streets during the handover anniversary.
In a statement issued on Facebook, the Hong Kong Police revealed that nineteen people were arrested throughout the city on July 1. Offenses included possession of a fake firearm, possession of “offensive weapon,” the desecration of the Chinese national flag, distribution of “seditious publications,” obstructing police and disorderly conduct. The majority of those arrested – 11 of the 19 – were detained on “suspicion of distributing seditious publications.”
Another 19 people were issued tickets for breaching COVID-19 restrictions on large gatherings.