HONG KONG (AP) — An annual fireworks display in Hong Kong marking China’s National Day on Oct. 1 was called off Wednesday as pro-democracy protests show no sign of ending.
The city issued a terse statement saying the show over its famed Victoria Harbour had been canceled “in view of the latest situation and having regard to public safety.”
Major protests are expected on Oct. 1, which will be the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party-governed People’s Republic of China.
Hong Kong has experienced often-violent demonstrations all summer as many residents fear the Chinese government is eroding the rights and freedoms the semi-autonomous territory is supposed to have under a “one country, two systems” framework.
The protests have divided the city. Dozens of supporters of China waved Chinese flags and sang the national anthem in a mall on Wednesday, while anti-government protesters booed them.
Plainclothes police escorted them out of the mall, and officers formed a human chain to prevent clashes with the other side. At a similar rally at a mall last weekend, what started as heckling turned violent as people traded blows, some using umbrellas to hit their opponents.
The anthem singing has sought to counter a newly penned protest song, “Glory to Hong Kong,” sung by democracy supporters in malls and other public spaces. Fans of rival soccer teams gathered Wednesday evening on soccer pitches in a large downtown park to sing the protest song while forming a human chain, in a show of the protest movement’s unity.
The protests also led the Hong Kong Jockey Club to cancel horse racing on Wednesday night. Some protesters had suggested targeting the club because a horse owned by controversial pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho was due to run, public broadcaster RTHK reported.
“Our concerns are tied to potential social unrest in the vicinity tonight, the very real threat of a disturbance or possible violence at Happy Valley Racecourse, and uncertainty regarding transportation … for racegoers, jockeys and employees and horses throughout the evening,” the club said in a statement.
Beijing warned the U.S. not to get involved, a day after a group of activists including former student leader Joshua Wong and Hong Kong pop singer Denise Ho appealed to Washington to support their fight. They asked U.S. lawmakers to ban exports of police equipment used against demonstrators and step up monitoring of Chinese efforts to undermine civil liberties.
“Hong Kong affairs are purely China’s internal affairs. We urge the U.S. and other relevant parties not to meddle in China’s internal matters or interfere in China’s internal affairs,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a daily briefing in Beijing. “At the same time, we have to warn certain people who engage in anti-China activities to disrupt Hong Kong with foreign support that all their efforts are doomed to be futile and destined to fail.”