Thousands of people in Hong Kong have again taken to the streets, singing a protest anthem and chanting slogans as they marked the first anniversary of a pivotal moment in the pro-democracy protest movement.
On June 9 last year, protesters in the financial hub staged a huge march as opposition to an unpopular bill that would have allowed extraditions to the Chinese mainland gathered pace.
Three days later, on June 12, the first sustained clashes broke out between protesters and riot police fired tear gas outside the city’s legislature.
Such scenes became a frequent occurrence over the next seven months as Hong Kong was upended by unprecedented unrest fuelled by fears Beijing was eroding the semi-autonomous city’s limited freedoms.
In recent weeks, outrage has again mounted as China’s parliament passed a national security law targeting subversion, succession, “terrorism” and foreign interference in the semi-autonomous region. The recent protests also came as a new law criminalizing insulting the Chinese national anthem in Hong Kong came into effect.
Hong Kong residents are afforded liberties unseen on the mainland as part of the “one country, two systems” deal made when British colonial power handed the territory back to China in 1997. That deal is set to expire in 2047.
On Friday night, thousands answered online calls to gather at 8pm (12:00 GMT) in local shopping centers and neighborhoods to chant pro-democracy slogans and sing “Glory to Hong Kong” – a protest anthem that became hugely popular during the turmoil.
The gatherings were unauthorized and went against coronavirus restrictions, which prohibit the gathering of more than eight people.
In Mongkok and Causeway Bay, police raised a blue flag, warning that the gatherings were unlawful and force might be used to disperse the participants.