Cops on standby as National Day rally banned

Top News | Staff reporters 29 Sep 2020

More than 6,000 police officers will be on duty on Thursday, National Day, as they guard against unauthorized protests after they banned the Civil Human Rights Front's application for a rally on Hong Kong Island.

It is understood police believe there is a high risk of unauthorized and violent protests after web users yesterday called for a "nonpeaceful event" on National Day, claiming it will be the "end game."

A Telegram group for the event also saw calls to target police and purchase weapons including knives, arrows and guns. However, the time and venue was not announced.

The 6,000 cops - in uniform and plainclothes - will patrol different districts from a high position on foot bridges and buildings.

More resources will be allocated to high-risk areas on Hong Kong Island and protest hot spots Mong Kok and Tsim Sha Tsui.

In case of an unapproved protest and similar events, police will strive to collect evidence and hunt down protesters, even if they are not arrested on site.

Police said last night they banned the protest on National Day because their risk assessment showed the activity will increase the risk of Covid-19 infections.

Many unauthorized gatherings have led to violent incidents.

The police also warned the public not to take part in unlawful protests.

The Civil Human Rights Front said it lost an appeal for organizing a protest on October 1.

Yesterday was the sixth anniversary of Occupy Central. A dozen people showed up at Pacific Place in Admiralty to chant slogans.

Policemen were seen to use its new definition for "authorized media" - those registered with the Government Information System - for the first time as cops warned a reporter from online forum HKGolden he could be fined for breaching the social gathering cap.

Meanwhile, people were reminded to observe the social gathering cap during Mid-Autumn celebrations as the city reported 10 new virus cases yesterday - the highest number in a week.

The new cases took the tally to 5,076, including 105 deaths.

Among the new cases, seven had a travel history during the incubation period.

They arrived from Ukraine, India, Myanmar, Argentina, France, Britain and the Philippines. The remaining cases, two men and a woman, aged one to 43, were linked to previous local cases.

The Leisure and Cultural Services Department said it will step up patrols on Thursday and Friday against gatherings of more than four persons and people failing to wear masks at its venues.

Officers will also make sure people stay away from closed beaches and barbecue sites. Enforcement actions will be taken against any irregularities, littering, wax burning, throwing objects onto trees and flying sky lanterns.

Separately, David Hui Shu-cheong, government adviser on Covid-19 and respiratory medicine expert from Chinese University, said it is inappropriate to relax social distancing measures further or to hold large group events at this stage as the city recorded another case of unknown source on Sunday.

This, Hui said, is an indication that transmission in the community is still continuing. But he said authorities can consider resuming religious assemblies if they limit the number taking part and require people to wear masks.

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