Hong Kong sees 1st protest in years under strict guidelines

Hong Kong protesters march for the first time in years.
Hong Kong protesters march for the first time in years. PETER PARKS/AFP via Getty Images

Hong Kong saw its first protest in three years on Sunday, as people were allowed to take to the streets for the first time since the lifting of major COVID-19 restrictions and the implementation of anti-protest laws.

However, the protest was closely watched by law enforcement, and heavily regulated with a number of guidelines. Only 100 people were allowed to attend, BBC News reported, and protesters had to wear numbered ID tags and have their signs approved in advance.

The protest was in opposition to a land reclamation plan that would allow the construction of garbage-processing facilities in place of homes.

Law enforcement cited security protocols as the reason for the strict oversight of the protests, the first since anti-COVID mandates were lifted. However, protests in Hong Kong have been rare in general since 2020, when "China imposed sweeping restrictions on the rights and freedoms of people living in the territory," BBC News added.

The restrictions were in response to massive protests that swept across Hong Kong in 2019 in opposition to human rights crackdowns. "Critics say the city's freedom of assembly that was promised Hong Kong when it returned to China from Britain in 1997 has been eroded," The Associated Press reported, as the government has taken measures such as banning masks in order to identify protesters accused of illegal acts.

Many of the protesters who arrived on Sunday decried the strict protocols that Hong Kong officials had required them to undergo.

Lam Wo-ping, a 72-year-old retiree, told the South China Morning Post he was "really saddened by this arrangement … in today's Hong Kong, going on a protest is such a difficult task." Lam added that while many people in the neighborhood knew about the protests, "they dared not join, as they were scared of being arrested or sued, given that there were so many restrictions."

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