HK students stage unapproved protest


HONG KONG, AP

More than 30 students calling for the Hong Kong government to scrap a law on public gatherings marched to government headquarters Sunday in defiance of a police warning.

Under the law, organizers have to notify police seven days in advance about marches involving 30 people or rallies by more than 50.

The protesters said the law restricts freedom of expression and the right of assembly. They carried placards reading “Protect freedom of expression.” The protest was staged by members of the Chinese University Student Union.

The demonstrators refused a police request to give advance notice of their demonstration, police said.

Discontent over the public assembly ordinance led thousands of people to take to the streets last year in illegal protests after seven students were arrested in two incidents for demonstrating without police approval.

The government later decided not to prosecute those students.

Police said the laws on demonstrations are necessary to maintain public order — letting people protest while avoiding traffic jams caused by illegal marches.

Offenders face a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

Hong Kong retains basic civil liberties, such as the right to stage protests, not shared by residents of the Chinese mainland under an arrangement that guaranteed this former British colony political autonomy following its return to Chinese sovereignty in 1997.