Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong said on Tuesday he is stepping down as leader of his democracy group Demosisto, just hours after local media reported that Beijing had passed national security legislation for the Chinese-ruled city.
Wong has said he will be a “prime target” of Beijing’s national security law, which critics fear will crush freedoms in the former British colony.
I hereby declare withdrawing from Demosisto…
If my voice will not be heard soon, I hope that the international community will continue to speak up for Hong Kong and step up concrete efforts to defend our last bit of freedom. pic.twitter.com/BIGD5tgriF
“If my voice will not be heard soon, I hope that the international community will continue to speak up for Hong Kong and step up concrete efforts to defend out last bit of freedom,” Wong wrote in a tweet.
HONG KONG — Hong Kong’s police force requested that the city shutter subway stations or halt train service on at least ten occasions that coincided with major pro-democracy protests, records obtained by BuzzFeed News show.
Clean, efficient and quick, the Mass Transit Railway, or the MTR has long been the pride of Hong Kong. But in recent months, subway signs have been scribbled over with spray paint and facilities have been smashed or burned on protest days as anger has increased toward the company.
A string of early closures in October sparked accusations that the MTR was being used to create a de facto citywide curfew without legally passing one. MTR employees previously told BuzzFeed News that they did not see technical reasons for the early shutdowns and believed that they were being used to curtail attendance at protests. Police have also used the stations as areas to detain protesters in recent months, and have fired pepper spray into several stations as the demonstrations escalated.
The MTR Corp. is a publicly-traded company that counts the Hong Kong government as its majority shareholder. Under its operating agreement with the government, the MTR corporation is required to make “adequate” accommodations for the Hong Kong Police Force as well as submit a report to the government any time there is a delay or emergency shutdown. (It’s also subject to fines for major delays to incentivize better service.)
In early October, BuzzFeed News requested a copy of all reports submitted to the government for any emergency closures or delays between June, when the protests began, and the first day of October, which saw widespread protests that coincided with the National Day of China. The transportation department did not provide the complete reports but did provide a summary of all of the reports, which BuzzFeed News is publishing in full.
Hong Kong lawmakers have also questioned the station closures. In a November response, the secretary of transportation released a list of dates when the subway was closed, but did not specify that many of the closures came at the request of the police.
One of Hong Kong protesters’ five demands is an independent inquiry into police violence as the accusations have mounted over six months of demonstrations. On Wednesday, an international panel of experts that was advising the police on a probe quit, citing criticisms that the police had no real independent watchdog capability.
The subway first became a major flashpoint on July 21, when a mob of men dressed in white stormed an MTR station in the Northern Territories region of Hong Kong and beat passengers and protesters indiscriminately with rods. The MTR called the police for assistance and they closed the station. Some details about the incident were disclosed by the MTR.
But records show that police began requesting station closures way back in June. Mass protests in Hong Kong started on June 9 when about 1 million people marched in the streets against a planned extradition bill that has since been scrapped. The MTR reported no delays or closures to the government that day.
Three days later, as protesters tried to push through the Legislative Council building where the bill was being debated, chaos broke out. It was the first time the police used tear gas against protesters. Around 8:30 p.m., police requested the nearest MTR station to the government building to be shuttered. Early the next morning, before 6 a.m. police continued to request that the MTR keep the station shut after protests had subsided.
On June 16, an estimated 2 million residents marched through the streets, but the police made no requests for any station closures. On July 1 police once more made a request to shut down stations on Hong Kong Island — this time just after 7 a.m., hours before a peaceful march proceeded through the city. That night, however, protesters would storm the Legislative Council building and police would eventually fire tear gas after they dispersed.
Police additionally requested service changes in August and September. The records conclude on October 1, when the city was embroiled in protests over China’s National Day. A young man was shot by police that evening.
On October 5, following renewed protests for a ban on face masks, the city shut down the entire subway system for the first time in the MTR’s history.
Pro-democracy candidates in Hong Kong surged to an early lead in the first polls since the start of anti-government protests in the city.
Record numbers of people turned out to vote in the district council election which is seen as a test of support for the pro-Beijing chief executive, Carrie Lam,
Initial results suggested that by 4am local time establishment candidates had only won around 18 seats, compared to 207 for pro-democracy candidates, out of a total of 457, according to local media.
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Hong Kong’s district councils control some spending and decide issues such as recycling and public health.
If the pro-democracy camp gains control, it could get six seats on Hong Kong’s semi-representative Legislative Council and 117 seats on the 1,200-member panel that selects the city’s chief executive.
“The performance of the pro-democracy camp will send a signal to Beijing,” said Andrew Li, a 22-year-old student who supported a pro-democracy candidate. “By ignoring people’s demands, it wakes up all Hong Kong people to come out and vote.”
After the polls closed at 10.30pm local time, electoral affairs chief Barnabus Fung said at least 2.94 million people voted – a turnout of 71 per cent and double the 1.47 million who took part four years ago.
Among the successful pro-democracy candidates were Lester Shum, a former student leader of the umbrella movement in 2014, and Kelvin Lam, who stood in after activist Joshua Wong was barred from running.
There was no major disruption during the day, despite recent attacks on candidates including Junius Ho, a pro-Beijing incumbent who suffered stab wounds earlier this month. Mr Ho lost to a pro-democracy challenger.
However the standoff continued at Polytechnic University, where protesters have been surrounded by police.
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“The government needs to know that if they don’t answer our demands, we will continue demanding and the protests will not stop,” said a 26-year-old pro-democracy voter who gave her name as Cda.
Anti-government demonstrations began six months ago over an extradition bill that would have allowed people to be sent to mainland China for trial.
While the bill has since been withdrawn, protesters remain angry at alleged police brutality and what they see as Beijing’s interference in the freedoms promised to the former British colony when it returned to China in 1997.
Ms Lam pledged that her government would listen more closely to the views of district councils when she cast her ballot.
“I hope this kind of stability and calm is not only for today’s election, but to show that everyone does not want Hong Kong to fall into a chaotic situation again,” Lam said.