Riot police stand off with member of the press in a shopping mall during Labor Day on May 1.
Riot police stand off with member of the press in a shopping mall during Labor Day on May 1.

‘Move away’: Aussie expats warned as China orders arrests

Expat Aussies in Hong Kong are being warned of another wave of violent "democracy protests" in the Chinese State, with arrests and violence likely.

But it is what is going on in the background of this and the coronavirus distraction that has Australian diplomats concerned.

More than 100 protesters, singing and chanting in a shopping centre, were dispersed by police who fired pepper spray; there were similar gatherings in two subways including the Mong Kok tourist precinct.

While there is a ban on Australians travelling overseas, a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade alert aimed at expats living in the State has warned to be cautions despite COVID-19 restrictions, with a new season of rallies and violence expected.

 

Riot police carry out a crowd dispersal operation in a shopping mall during Labor Day on May 1, 2020 in Hong Kong. Picture: Getty Images
Riot police carry out a crowd dispersal operation in a shopping mall during Labor Day on May 1, 2020 in Hong Kong. Picture: Getty Images

 

Flash mob rallies which have crippled Hong Kong economically began last July and paused earlier this year as coronavirus spread.

"There's a risk of violent confrontation between protesters and police, opposing groups or criminally-linked individuals," an update to its alert states.

"Flash mob' demonstrations can take place with little or no warning, with instances of violence and vandalism … if you are in Hong Kong, be alert. Plan ahead to avoid demonstrations by monitoring local media, including key online sources. If there are signs of disorder, move away quickly to a safe place."

But DFAT sources told News Corp Australia what is of particular concern has been arrests of those recently, not necessarily associated with the rallies but critics of Beijing.

Two weeks ago on the direction from Beijing, squads of police were dispatched across Hong Kong to arrest pro-democracy activists and critics of mainland China.

Those scooped up in the raids were not the masked youth rioters or organisers who made global front page headlines with clashes last year but rather intellectuals, former politicians and the press who commented on these events.

One of those detained was 81-year-old barrister Martin Lee who in the 1980s helped draft the "Basic Law" - Hong Kong's mini-constitution that grants liberties and autonomy to the State. Days earlier before his arrest, Beijing suddenly announced it wanted to tear it up and no longer accepted provisions blocking the central government from interfering in how the city governed itself through its legislation and judiciary.

It is a dramatic shift that threatens a deepening of the crisis in one of the world's important financial hubs.

With the global distraction with COVID-19 these arrests have barely been reported.

News Corp has independently verified reports of Australians experiencing a rise in anti-Western sentiment on mainland China, including harassment amid Chinese propaganda via state media pushing the line that it is foreigners spreading a second wave of coronavirus in China.

Originally published as 'Move away': Aussie expats warned as China orders arrests