Dozens of students commemorated last year's pro-democracy protests during a graduation ceremony at The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) in Sha Tin (East New Territories) on Thursday, November 19. Reports indicate that the graduation had been organized by students after the university stated it would hold the ceremony remotely due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Students gathered near the campus MTR station for the march shortly after midday (local time) and marched through the campus wearing black graduation robes and masks, chanting pro-democracy slogans. The march was peaceful, although reports indicate that CUHK staff reported the march to police and demonstrators were warned that they could be in breach of COVID-19 restrictions and national security legislation.
A heightened security presence should be anticipated in the near term. Further associated demonstrations and clashes between security forces and protesters cannot be ruled out.
Demonstrations have been held throughout Hong Kong since June 2019 to protest a controversial extradition bill, which would have allowed authorities in Hong Kong to extradite fugitives wanted in mainland China and other territories. While the bill was withdrawn in September, mass protests continue to be organized to demand government reforms and police accountability over violence since the start of the demonstrations.
After a break in protests due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, demonstrations have increased in frequency since the relaxation of COVID-19 measures in late April. There has also been an uptick in protest activity since Beijing introduced the controversial new security law in June 2020. Under the new legislation, individuals can be arrested for being directly or indirectly involved in secession, subversion, terrorist activities, or collusion with a foreign country or other external elements that could endanger national security. The maximum sentence for violating the law is life imprisonment. A new Office for Safeguarding National Security of the Central People's Government will also be set up in Hong Kong to assist in dealing with national security issues. Under certain conditions, the new Office will be allowed to prosecute individuals under mainland Chinese law. The postponed September 6 legislative election would have been the first since the introduction of the security law.
Those in Hong Kong are advised to monitor developments, avoid all protests as a precaution, and adhere to all instructions issued by local authorities and their home governments.
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