Hong Kong police grapple with pro-democracy protesters

HONG KONG (AP) — Riot police in Hong Kong grappled with pro-democracy protesters who gathered in shopping malls on Sunday to sing, chant slogans and flash hand signs after permission for a Mother’s Day march was denied.

The incident indicated a desire on the part of some in the pro-democracy camp to revive the protests against Hong Kong’s Beijing-backed government that paralyzed parts of the semi-autonomous Chinese territory for months last year.

With the coronavirus outbreak subsiding, more people in Hong Kong have responded to online calls for action, although in far smaller numbers than the hundreds of thousands who marched last year against proposed legislation that could have seen dissidents or criminal suspects extradited to mainland China to face unfair trials and possible torture.

The legislation was eventually withdrawn, but the protests continued, growing increasingly violent as both police and demonstrators adopted hard-line tactics. Thousands, mainly young people, were arrested in the demonstrations for crimes including rioting and possessing weapons.

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Local media reports said at least one person was detained in Sunday’s action, which attracted numerous journalists wearing high-visibility vests.

The incident followed scuffles Friday in Hong Kong’s Legislative Council as lawmakers from opposing camps competed to preside over a meeting to determine who has authority over a key committee that scrutinizes bills.

Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing and pro-democracy lawmakers have been caught in an impasse over the delayed election of a chairperson of the Legislative Council’s House Committee, which reads bills and determines when they can be put to a final vote. Among the bills under consideration is one that would criminalize disrespect of China’s national anthem.

The former British colony was handed back to China in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” framework in which Hong Kong was given freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland and promised a high degree of autonomy in its affairs for 50 years. Pro-democracy supporters say those rights are being eroded by Beijing as it tightens its grip on the territory through tough policing and increasingly restrictive legislation.

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