In its newly released yearbook, the Hong Kong government has blamed the city’s economic “downward spiral” on last year’s pro-democracy protests.
Each year, the Information Services Department publishes an official volume detailing major events and statistics. The 2019 edition includes 22 chapters with 90 pictures of local affairs, people and places. Under “the economy” section, it said that the export of services dropped 10.2 per cent and the city-wide demonstrations that erupted last June were the cause of the downturn.
“The downward spiral was particularly drastic in the second half of the year, as the social unrest dealt a severe blow to inbound tourism,” the report read.
Under the “public order” section, the pro-democracy protests – sparked by an ill-fated extradition bill – were said to have reversed the crime rate in the city: “The downward trend in crime figures reversed in June, when the city started seeing the first of many processions and demonstrations that turned violent. A hard core of rioters hurled petrol bombs and bricks, lit fires, vandalised and burned shops and public transport facilities, and assaulted people with different views, causing a deterioration in the law and order situation,” it read.
Beijing enacted a national security law this June which – aside from subversion, secession and collusion with foreign forces – specifically criminalised interference with transportation and other infrastructure as acts of “terrorism.”
The report also stated that routine policing work, such as crime prevention, was affected by considerable manpower deployed to handle the protests.
“Despite the challenges, the police continue to stand fast and enforce the law without fear or favour to enable society to return to normal as soon as possible,” it said.
Key protest dates and major events were also noted in the yearbook. Last July 21, over 100 white-clad assailants indiscriminately beat civilians with rods and sticks in Yuen Long MTR station following protest unrest in Sheung Wan. Police officers stood accused of ignoring the incident and deploying slowly.
July 21 was described in the yearbook as: “Protesters throw petrol bombs at police in Sheung Wan and a group of people attack protesters and commuters at Yuen Long Station.” However, as of August 2020, official accounts now describe the incident as a violent “evenly matched standoff” between two sides.
Last month, the force arrested pro-democracy lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting – who was injured in the event – on the suspicion of rioting.
Other events mentioned in the book include June 12, 2019 when a group of protesters surrounded the legislature in an attempt to stop the extradition bill, which would have enabled the transfer of fugitives to mainland China. July 1 – when protesters stormed into and vandalised the legislature – was also featured.
The yearbook also remarked on the Prince Edward MTR incident when a group of riot police wielded batons and deployed pepper spray inside train carriages and platforms, causing injuries. “The government repeatedly dismisses claims that the incident resulted in protester deaths,” it wrote. Unsubstantiated rumours emerged following the August 31 incident that deaths had occurred.
Last year, the government’s “Brand HK” campaign – which exists to promote Hong Kong as “Asia’s World City” – published a series of video condemning “fake news” and what it described as “riots.”
According to a Monday government press release, the HK$266 book “provides an extensive account of government policy, activities and progress on various fronts, along with a wealth of facts and figures to give an overview of Hong Kong life and developments during the year.”
It is available from the government bookstore and includes features on the 100km MacLehose Trail and the new Xiqu Centre.