Hundreds gathered outside a fenced strip of land on the Central Harbourfront on Friday night, in protest of it being handed over to the Chinese military.
The Military Installations Closed Areas (Amendment) Order 2019, and four other pieces of subsidiary legislation, came into operation on Saturday.
It means a 0.3-hectare area of the waterfront in front of the People’s Liberation Army building is now closed off for military use.
An effort by pro-democracy lawmakers to stop the pier from being transferred was effectively blocked at the legislature earlier this week.
Protesters originally called for action on Saturday morning outside the pier.
But hundreds spontaneously came to the fenced-off pier on Friday night after joining an anti-extradition law rally at the legislature urging G20 countries to raise concerns about Hong Kong at the leaders’ summit.
Many were young people clad in black and wearing facemasks.
Protesters hung banners on the fence which read “free Hong Kong,” “oppose ceding land” and “return our harbourfront to us.”
Many folded paper planes and flew them into the pier.
By around 11:30pm, some protesters had cut the fence open and crossed into the pier.
Lawmaker Eddie Chu, who was on scene, also entered the strip of land. He said the People’s Liberation Army already had a military base on Stonecutters Island and has no need to use the Central Harbourfront.
“I am obliged to commit [an act of] civil disobedience tonight,” he told HKFP, since he had sought to block the legislation.
“We need to tell Hong Kong people that this place belongs to us,” he said, but warned protesters that there could be legal risk in entering the pier.
Uniformed police arrived a few minutes after protesters entered the pier, and officers with riot shields had arrived by 11:45pm.
Protesters left the pier by midnight, but continued a standoff with the police in front of the fence, with demonstrators hurling abuse at officers.
By around 1am, the majority of protesters decided to retreat. They chanted “one, two, one, two” as a group and walked backwards with their umbrellas open, leaving the area within minutes.
Chu told reporters that the government had to think clearly about the decision. He said details as to how open the pier will be when under military control were still unclear.
“We will continue to protest… we are not targeting the police, but we are asking why the government gives this precious spot to the Chinese army garrison in Hong Kong,” he said.
On Saturday morning, Chu returned to the pier with lawmaker Fernando Cheung and Ted Hui, district councillor Paul Zimmerman and conservation activist Katty Law, as well as several others. However, few protesters showed up following Friday night’s stand-off.
On Saturday, police officers warned lawmakers and protesters to “stop charging” and not to enter the pier. The lawmakers denied having plans to occupy the PLA zone and said they had a right to enter the area.
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