Scores of riot police were patrolling busy shopping areas on Hong Kong island on Thursday, stopping and searching mostly young people as they warned the public against heeding online calls for an unauthorised anti-government protest.
Sources have told RTHK some 6,000 officers are on hand to quickly stamp out any signs of trouble at the earliest opportunity.
The force had earlier rejected an application by the Civil Human Rights Front to hold a rally on Hong Kong Island, citing health and security concerns, along with the ban on public gatherings of more than four people..
On Thursday, the planned protest route was seen to be dotted with police vehicles and officers.
Police in riot gear stopped and searched a number of people by the Sogo department store in Causeway Bay, and asked a reporter to present her press pass.
An officer unfurled a warning flag at one point saying people at the scene were participating in an unauthorised rally.
Another officer, meanwhile, warned a man waving a US flag and ordered him to leave.
People setting up street booths in the area were also told to disperse, with officers telling them not to obstruct the streets.
Former People Power legislator Ray Chan said his partymates who were planning to hand out face masks were among those who were ordered to go, but he complained of double standards.
“Absolutely unreasonable! You can see some pro-Beijing groups, they opened their booths in North Point to distribute rice, distribute moon-cakes, [and] several hundred people lined up on the streets, but the police [took] no action.”
Activist Joshua Wong was in Causeway Bay, saying he wanted to spread the message that October 1 is not a day to celebrate. But he said he believes the people of Hong Kong will have the wisdom to show their discontent with the government in peaceful ways.
"No matter [if you] support pro-democracy restaurants, or support the street stations of People Power, I think today people in different districts… will still also have a way to let people know how October 1 is the remarkable day that we show our discontent”, he said.
Police also maintained a heavy presence at several small demonstrations in the morning.
Four activists from the League of Social Democrats had staged a small protest near the convention centre in Wan Chai while dignitaries were at a flag-raising ceremony.
The group set fire to a petition letter, which was quickly doused by officers who were keeping a close eye on the group.
Later, officers issued penalty tickets to pro-democracy activist Lee Cheuk-yan and several others after accusing them of flouting social distancing rules as hey protested outside Beijing's Liaison Office.
Holding a banner that read "Without human rights, can we celebrate national day?", the activists walked backwards to the building to symbolise the regression of human rights in the mainland.
They also chanted slogans to demand the release of political dissidents, and 12 Hongkongers being held in Shenzhen.
Last updated: 2020-10-01 HKT 13:38
Police out in force amid calls for protests
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