Hundreds of police deployed in Hong Kong, setting up roadblocks at cross-harbour tunnels and cordoning off streets, to thwart expected protests on the anniversary of the first major clash of the 2019 protests.
On June 12, 2019, police used tear gas, rubber bullets and bean bag rounds against protesters who blocked major roads near the Legislative Council in Admiralty, in an attempt to prevent the second reading of a controversial extradition bill. Three days earlier a crowd estimated by organisers at one million had marched in opposition to the bill, which would have allowed extradition of criminal suspects to mainland China.
Following online calls for protests on Saturday, more than 50 officers cordoned off and cleared Great George Street, East Point Road and Paterson Street in the Causeway Bay shopping district at about 3 pm and ordered pedestrians and several marketing sales people to leave the area using a megaphone, local newspaper Apple Daily reported. Road traffic was blocked but pedestrians were allowed.
Dozens of people wearing black, the traditional colour of protest, had their belongings searched by police.
More than two dozen officers remained in the area until 8pm while others patrolled in groups of five to six across the district, including near Times Square and Hysan Place.
A man aged about 30 and wearing a gas mask was stopped and questioned by police on Lee Garden Road next to Hysan Place. In response to officers’ questions, he said he wore the mask for “protection.” He was also asked by police if his mobile phone contained protest propaganda material.
Across the harbour in Mong Kok, over 20 police vehicles were parked along Nathan Road in the afternoon, Apple Daily reported. About 10 officers cordoned off a street booth staffed by the Hospital Authority Employees Alliance (HAEA) and the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions on the Mong Kok overpass at about 5:30pm, the HAEA said on social media.
Four activists were searched and ordered to leave after being handed fixed penalty tickets for allegedly violating Covid-19 social gathering restrictions.
Several black-clad individuals pushed a rubbish bin into the traffic in Dundas Street in Mong Kok, police said on Facebook. Traffic resumed shortly afterwards.
Police stopped and searched vehicles crossing from Kowloon to Hong Kong island at all cross-harbour tunnel toll plazas on Saturday afternoon, snarling traffic. Officers boarded some cross-harbour buses and searched the belongings of individuals at nearby bus stops.
Protests have largely died down in the past year or so due to Covid-19 restrictions and a sweeping national security law imposed by Beijing in June last year. Dozens of pro-democracy leaders have been arrested under the law.
Additional reporting: Candice Chau.