Hong Kong cancels fireworks marking China's national day amid protests
Oct. 1 show over Victoria Harbour scrapped in 'regard to public safety'
Hong Kong has called off the annual fireworks display on Oct. 1 to mark China's National Day as pro-democracy protests show no sign of ending.
The city issued a terse statement Wednesday saying the Oct. 1 show over its famed Victoria Harbour had been cancelled "in view of the latest situation and having regard to public safety."
While specific plans have not been announced, major protests are expected on that day, which marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party-governed People's Republic of China.
The last time Oct. 1 fireworks were cancelled in Hong Kong was during the 2014 Umbrella movement pro-democracy protests that gridlocked parts of the city for 79 days.
Hong Kong has experienced often-violent demonstrations all summer as many residents fear their rights and freedoms are being eroded by the mainland Chinese government. The semi-autonomous territory has a separate legal system under a "one-country, two-systems" framework.
The protests have divided the city. Dozens of supporters of China waved Chinese flags and sang the national anthem in a mall on Wednesday, while anti-government protesters booed them.
Plainclothes police escorted them out of the mall and officers formed a human chain to prevent clashes with the other side. At a similar rally at a mall last weekend, what started as heckling turned violent as people traded blows, some using umbrellas to hit their opponents.
The anthem singing has sought to counter a newly penned protest song, Glory to Hong Kong, sung by democracy supporters in malls and other public spaces.
Fans of rival soccer teams gathered Wednesday evening on soccer pitches in a large downtown park to sing the protest song while forming a human chain, in a show of the protest movement's unity.
Horse races also cancelled
Hong Kong's Jockey Club also cancelled all races planned for Wednesday after pro-democracy protesters said they would target the Happy Valley racecourse where a horse part-owned by a pro-China lawmaker was due to run.
The Jockey Club said it had been "monitoring the situation" closely in the Chinese-ruled territory. "It has conducted a thorough risk assessment of the race meeting tonight and concluded that it should be cancelled in order to preserve the security and safety of people and horses," the club said in a statement, without specifically mentioning the protests.
A horse called Hong Kong Bet that had been due to run in the evening program is part-owned by lawmaker Junius Ho, who has taken a firm line on the protesters, calling them "black-shirted thugs."
Ho was not immediately available for comment.
Happy Valley, nestled in the hills of Hong Kong island, is a tightly populated, up-market residential area next to the Causeway Bay shopping district. There has been a horse-racing track there since just after British colonial rule began in the mid-1800s.
Races are held in the evening to avoid the sub-tropical heat of the day.
China to U.S.: Don't meddle in 'internal affairs'
Beijing warned the U.S. not to get involved, a day after a group of activists, including former student leader Joshua Wong and Hong Kong pop singer Denise Ho, appealed to Washington to support their fight. They asked U.S. lawmakers to ban exports of police equipment used against demonstrators and step up monitoring of Chinese efforts to undermine civil liberties.
"Hong Kong affairs are purely China's internal affairs. We urge the U.S. and other relevant parties not to meddle in China's internal matters or interfere in China's internal affairs," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said at a daily briefing in Beijing. "At the same time, we have to warn certain people who engage in anti-China activities to disrupt Hong Kong with foreign support that all their efforts are doomed to be futile and destined to fail."
Demonstrators are angry about what they see as creeping interference by Beijing in their city's affairs despite a promise of autonomy.
The spark for the latest protests in June was planned legislation, now withdrawn, that would have allowed people to be sent to mainland China for trial. But they have since broadened into calls for universal suffrage.
Hong Kong returned to China in 1997 under the one-country, two-systems formula, which ensures freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland.
With files from Reuters