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01 Jan 2020 | 07:14 PM UTC

Hong Kong: Over 400 people arrested during January 1 protests /update 184

Police detain over 400 people during mass protests on January 1; additional rally planned in Central on January 3

security
transportation
HKG

Event

Clashes broke out between demonstrators and security forces during New Year’s Day celebrations in multiple districts on Wednesday, January 1. According to protest organizers, over 1 million people participated in a march to demand government reforms. The Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF) had originally received permission to hold the demonstration at Victoria Park (Causeway Bay) and march through Central but police ordered the crowds to disperse after clashes started to break out on Wednesday evening (local time). Riot police reportedly used tear gas, pepper spray, and water cannons in several districts after protesters began blocking roads and refused to disperse. In Wan Chai district, demonstrators vandalized at least one bank with graffiti and smashed a cash machine. According to police officials, over 400 people were detained on various charges including illegal assembly and possession of offensive weapons.

Further rallies are expected to be held over the near term. The Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union is planning to hold a demonstration on Friday, January 3, at Edinburgh Place (Central) from 19:00 to 21:00. A Letter of No Objection from the police is still pending as of January 1.

A heightened security presence along with localized transportation and business disruptions are anticipated near all demonstration sites. Clashes between protesters and police cannot be ruled out.

Context

Pro-democracy candidates won 389 of the 452 seats in the territory's district council elections on November 24. The pro-democracy movement victory and the high turnout (71%) of the vote suggest that the public continues to support protests, although tensions have significantly escalated across Hong Kong since November 11, after a police officer shot a protester in Sai Wan Ho.

On September 4, Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced the withdrawal of a controversial extradition bill, which would have allowed authorities in Hong Kong to extradite fugitives wanted in mainland China and other territories. The bill sparked mass protests of up to 2 million people throughout Hong Kong since June 9. However, protest actions have continued since the government's announcement, as protester demands evolved into a wider pro-democracy movement, calling for government reforms and police accountability over violence.

Demonstrations have spread from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon and the New Territories and have also become increasingly violent. Activists have also accused the police of using unnecessary force in their attempts to disperse protesters.

Advice

Individuals in Hong Kong are advised to monitor developments, avoid all protests and demonstrations, prepare for disruptions to transportation and business around protest sites, confirm the status of their flights prior to departure for the airport, and adhere to all instructions issued by the local authorities and their home governments.

Individuals are also advised to avoid wearing black and white colors around protest zones or rallies as they are associated with protesters.