Fresh HK rallies as border protests turn violent

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Protesters have turned their attention to the issue of “parallel trading”

Fresh protests are taking place in Hong Kong as weeks of anti-government unrest show no sign of dying down.

Saturday saw clashes during a march against Hong Kong goods being smuggled into mainland China.

The protests were sparked by a proposed extradition bill which would allow people to be sent to China for trial.

But they have morphed into something broader, reflecting demands for democratic reform and concerns that Hong Kong’s freedom is on the wane.

Hong Kong, a former British colony, is part of China but run under a “one country, two systems” arrangement that guarantees it a level of autonomy. It has its own judiciary, and a separate legal system, compared to mainland China.

What happened on Saturday?

Demonstrators turned out in Sheung Shui, a town near the border with China popular with mainland tourists.

Traders use Sheung Shui to buy goods and sell them at inflated prices over the border, but locals have complained the influx of visitors has driven up prices, put pressure on services and changed the character of the area.

“It’s really annoying. The rent has gone higher. Other small shops and restaurants can’t survive. The whole region has become a place serving for parallel traders instead of local residents,” one protester told AFP.

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Police use pepper spray and batons to disperse the protesters

The protests on Saturday were mostly peaceful, but police later charged protesters with batons, shields and pepper spray and were met with metal poles and other projectiles.

Pro-democracy rallies are expected on Sunday, with hundreds of journalists already having turned out for a march against what they say is police mistreatment of frontline reporters.

What do the protesters want?

Critics of the extradition bill said it would undermine Hong Kong’s judicial independence and could be used to target those who speak out against the Chinese government.

After huge protests, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said the bill was “dead” but stopped short of formally withdrawing it.

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Media captionCarrie Lam said last week there is “no such plan” for the controversial extradition bill

This was not enough for protesters, who have vowed to keep up the pressure on the government and revived other demands, such as for universal suffrage.

Hong Kong’s leader, the chief executive, is currently elected by a 1,200-member election committee – a mostly pro-Beijing body chosen by just 6% of eligible voters.

The BBC’s China correspondent Stephen McDonell says that given that Beijing is likely to oppose genuine elections it is difficult to see an end to the crisis.

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