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.
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.
Water cannons fired, bricks thrown during weekend protests
Police fired water cannon and volleys of tear gas on Sunday to disperse protesters, many of them masked and wearing black, who threw petrol bombs and set fires in Causeway Bay and the nearby Central district.
In a direct challenge to Beijing, some protesters threw bricks at police outside the Chinese People’s Liberation Army base and set fire to a red banner proclaiming the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
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.
Sunday’s violence followed a peaceful rally outside the British Consulate where protesters said one country, two systems was dead, and urged Britain to call on China to stand by its promises.
China says it is committed to the arrangement, denies meddling and says the city is an internal Chinese issue. It has accused foreign powers, particularly the United States and Britain, of fomenting the unrest and told them to mind their own business.
Hong Kong democracy activists urged members of the U.S. Congress on Tuesday to pass legislation to combat human rights abuses in the city, rejecting any suggestion that such a move would be inappropriate U.S. involvement in another country’s affairs.