BEIJING – At least seven people have been arrested in the Chinese special administrative region of Macau in connection with a planned vigil in support of protesters in the neighboring city of Hong Kong that was declared illegal and finally never held, public broadcaster TDM reported on Tuesday.
Among those arrested are four residents of Macau, two of mainland China and one of Hong Kong.
The authorities had banned the event on grounds that it is illegal to publicly support the protest movement against Hong Kong’s extradition bill, which also includes a set of wider demands for democracy in the semi-autonomous former British colony.
An anonymous citizen had called on the Macanese people to convene at 8:00 pm Monday at the Senate Square – the city’s main public square –, but around 50 police officers were stationed at the entrance points to the square to verify the identities of passersby and to prevent the gathering.
Lawmakers not belonging to the ruling party of the former Portuguese colony denied a hand in the event although one of them, Sulu Sou Ka Hou, expressed doubts about the legality of the decision to ban the gathering.
According to local media reports, the vigil was finally not held although photographs of around 30 people being frisked were published.
Some of them were dressed in black – the color used by the protesters in Hong Kong – while others wore white, the color used by those who support the authorities of the neighboring city.
The only lawmaker of the Portuguese-Macanese community in the local legislature, Jose Maria Pereira Coutinho, told the Hoje Macau daily that the ban on the gathering was a political decision but ruled out any risk of the Hong Kong protests spreading to Macau.
The protests in Hong Kong began in June against an initiative by the local government to pass a contentious extradition bill.
Hong Kong reverted back to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, although it still retains a degree of independence from Beijing under the “one country, two systems” formula.
According to the handover deal between London and Beijing, this political system – which includes certain legal freedoms not recognized in mainland China – must be preserved until 2047.
The protests, involving hundreds of thousands of people, have been accompanied by attempts by the police to repress them and prevent protesters from disrupting the normal functioning of the city with strikes and occupations of official buildings, police stations, metro stations and the airport.
Though the bill has been declared “dead” by the city’s top leader Carrie Lam, the civil campaign against it has since morphed into a broader movement seeking democratic reforms in the Chinese special autonomous region and ultimately opposing Beijing’s authoritarian rule.