Government supporters march in Hong Kong after week of chaos

Mostly middle-aged and senior citizens, rallied outside the Hong Kong government’s headquarters to show support for the police. (Reuters)
Updated 16 November 2019

Government supporters march in Hong Kong after week of chaos

  • The demonstrators took photos with the stationed riot police and gave them thumbs-up signs

HONG KONG: Government supporters took to the streets of downtown Hong Kong on Saturday after a chaotic working week saw hardcore pro-democracy activists cause widespread disruption in the city and stretch police resources.
A “Blossom Everywhere” campaign of roadblocks and vandalism across the semi-autonomous financial hub shut down large chunks of the train network and forced schools and shopping malls to close.
Students and protesters occupied several major universities around the city — the first time a movement characterized by its fluidity and unpredictability has coagulated in fixed locations — although as dusk fell on Friday, numbers had thinned out.
On Saturday morning, a group of around 500 people, mostly middle-aged and senior citizens, rallied outside the Hong Kong government’s headquarters to show support for the police, who have been heavily criticized over their handling of the crisis.
Waving Chinese national flags and posters, they chanted slogans including “support police to enforce law solemnly” and “Hong Kong cockroaches, trash of our times” — mocking one of the democracy movement’s major slogans, “reclaim Hong Kong, revolution of our times.”
The demonstrators took photos with the stationed riot police and gave them thumbs-up signs.
Thousands of office workers took to the streets this week in Central, Hong Kong’s financial heart, showing their support of the pro-democracy movement by raising an open hand with five fingers splayed — a reference to the five protester demands.
The Hong Kong government, however, warned its employees they will be suspended if they are caught taking part in protests.
“I must emphasize that the government has zero tolerance for civil servants violating the law,” Joshua Law, Secretary for the Civil Service, said in a press conference on Friday.
“Civil servants must not participate in any illegal activities, including illegal protest gatherings.”
According to the Hong Kong government, the civil service employs around 175,000 people, which is about 4.4 percent of the city’s workforce.
After five days of the “Blossom Everywhere” tactics — which prompted police to warn the city is on the verge of “total collapse” — roads which had been blocked were slowly starting to open to traffic. However, some roads and a key tunnel remained closed.
By Saturday morning, the Chinese University of Hong Kong — the scene of some of the most-fierce clashes — was vacated by protesters.
At other campuses, clear-up operations got under way to remove the barricades.
Protests have swept Hong Kong since June as many in the city of 7.5 million people have vented fury at eroding freedoms under Chinese rule.
Violence has escalated, and tensions have spread overseas, sparking friction between China and Britain, which governed Hong Kong until 1997.
Hong Kong Justice Secretary Teresa Cheng fell in London Thursday after being surrounded by pro-democracy protesters.
Cheng walked away without signs of injury, but Beijing slammed the incident as an “appalling attack” and accused Britain of fueling the protest movement.
Two German students, aged 22 and 23, were swept up in the protests and arrested on Thursday for “unlawful assembly,” and major universities in the Netherlands are advising the nearly 300 Dutch students in Hong Kong to quickly return home for security reasons.


Indians demonstrate against ‘divisive’ citizenship bill

Updated 11 December 2019

Indians demonstrate against ‘divisive’ citizenship bill

  • The bill, which goes to the upper house on Wednesday, would ensure citizenship for Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis and Buddhists from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, but exclude Muslims

NEW DELHI: Protests erupted across various parts of India on Tuesday, a day after the lower house of Parliament passed the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) which makes religion the basis for granting Indian citizenship to minorities from neighboring countries. 

The bill, which goes to the upper house on Wednesday, would ensure citizenship for Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis and Buddhists from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, but exclude Muslims.

“After the CAB, we are going to bring in the National Register of Citizens (NRC),” Home Minister Amit Shah said after the passage of the bill. 

The fear among a large section of Indians is that by bringing in the CAB and the NRC — a process to identify illegal immigrants — the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is trying to target Muslim minorities. 

They insist that the new bill protects all other communities except Muslims, who constitute around 14 percent of India’s total population.

The opposition Congress Party said that the bill was a move to “destroy the foundation” of India.

“The CAB is an attack on the Indian constitution. Anyone who supports it is attacking and attempting to destroy the foundation of our nation,” party leader Rahul Gandhi posted in a tweet.

Priyanka Gandhi, Rahul’s sister and a prominent opposition leader, called the bill “India’s tryst with bigotry.”

However, BJP spokesperson Sudesh Verma said: “The opposition is communalizing the bill. 

The CAB saves minorities who owe their origin to India from being prosecuted on grounds of religious status. The same is not the case with Muslims since they have not been prosecuted because of their religion.”

Eight northeastern states observed a day-long strike against the CAB. 

“Once the bill is implemented, the native tribal people will become permanent minorities in their own state,” Animesh Debbarma, a tribal leader who organized the strike in the state of Tripura said.

“The bill is against our fundamental rights and it is an attack on our constitution and secularism,” he told Arab News.

In Assam, some places saw violence with a vehicle belonging to the BJP state president vandalized.

In New Delhi, different civil society groups and individuals gathered close to the Indian Parliament and expressed their outrage at the “open and blatant attack” on what they called the “idea” of India.

“The CAB is not only against Muslim minorities but against all the minorities — be it Tamils or Nepali Gurkhas — and is a blatant attempt to polarize the society in the name of religion and turn India into a majoritarian Hindu state,” Nadeem Khan, head of United Against Hate, a campaign to connect people from different faiths, said.

Rallies and protests were also organized in Pune, Ahmadabad, Allahabad, Patna and Lucknow.

On Tuesday, more than 600 academics, activists, lawyers and writers called the bill “divisive, discriminatory, unconstitutional” in an open letter, and urged the government to withdraw the proposed law.

They said that the CAB, along with the NRC, “will bring untold suffering to people across the country. It will damage fundamentally and irreparably, the nature of the Indian republic.”

Delhi-based activist and a prominent human rights campaigner, Harsh Mander, said: “I feel the CAB is the most dangerous bill that has ever been brought by the Indian Parliament. We need a mass civil disobedience movement to oppose this legislation.”

Meanwhile, the international community is also watching the domestic debate on the CAB. 

Describing the initiative as a “dangerous turn in the wrong direction,”  a federal US commission on international religious freedom has sought US sanctions against Shah and other Indian leaders if the bill with the “religious criterion” is passed.

EU ambassador to India, Ugo Astuto, in a press conference in New Delhi on Monday said that he hopes: “The spirit of equality enshrined in the Indian constitution will be upheld by the Parliament.”