Anti-Beijing protesters march in Hong Kong

Anti-Beijing protesters march in Hong Kong

HONG KONG – Agence France-Presse
Anti-Beijing protesters march in Hong Kong

Angry protesters marched through Hong Kong Jan. 1 against what they described as suppression by Beijing, days after Chinese authorities ruled that part of a city rail station would come under mainland law.

Semi-autonomous Hong Kong has been ruled under a “one country, two systems” deal since Britain returned it to China in 1997 and enjoys rights unseen on the mainland, including freedom of speech and an independent judiciary.

But a string of recent incidents have fuelled concern over the erosion of its autonomy and rule of law, including the jailing of prominent pro-democracy activists.

Campaigner Joshua Wong, who joined thousands of protesters at the march Jan. 1, said suppression by China’s Communist Party government had worsened in 2017.

Wong, 21, was jailed in August over his role in the Umbrella Movement mass pro-democracy protests of 2014 and is on bail pending an appeal against his six-month sentence.

“In 2018, I hope that every Hong Konger can become an avenger, and win back the core values eroded by Beijing,” Wong told AFP.

Many of the protesters were angry at the so-called “co-location” agreement, which would bring part of a new rail terminus in the heart of Hong Kong under mainland law.

The high-speed link to the sprawling southern mainland cities of Shenzhen and Guangzhou is due to open this year, with plans for a joint immigration checkpoint that would see mainland police and other officials based in the Hong Kong terminus.

The station is on Hong Kong’s famous harborfront in Kowloon, not on the border with the mainland further to the north.

Pro-democracy lawmakers, campaigners and some in the city’s legal community say the plan is a violation of Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, which says national laws do not apply to Hong Kong except for a few exceptions.

Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing government argues that the rail set-up is for the convenience of passengers and both local and Chinese authorities insist it does not impinge on the city’s autonomy.