Hong Kong– Tens of thousands of black-clad Hong Kong protesters have once again flooded the streets of the Chinese territory, for the eleventh straight week of anti-government demonstrations.
While only a rally at Victoria Park was permitted to proceed, as police denied a permit for a 3.7-kilometre march to Hong Kong’s central business district, the rally quickly became a march as crowds spilled out into neighboring streets and moved west towards the original destination.
As tropical rain began to pour down, protesters remained undeterred and became a sea of colourful umbrellas, streaming through the neighborhood of Wan Chai. They marched to the beat of a stationary drummer, while a speaker stood on pedestal with a microphone, leading a chant of: “Carrie Lam, step down!”
Protests were originally sparked by a now-shelved extradition bill that would allow suspects to be extradited to mainland China for trial, but have broadened into a wider movement against Chinese interference in the semi-autonomous region.
When Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule from its previous British colonial overseer in 1997, a framework called ‘One Country Two Systems’ was established to protect the unique civil liberties and freedoms, unseen on the mainland.
Police say they’ve arrested more than 700 people since mass demonstrations kicked off in early June [Kin Cheung/AP Photo]
Sunday’s mass march was organized by the Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF), the same group that drew millions of people to the streets in recent months.
“If [the Hong Kong Government and Beijing] think they can simply wait for our campaign to die down, they are dead wrong,” says Bonnie Leung, vice-convener of CHRF.
“They can’t scare us away from the campaign using violence and [threats]. Hongkongers will soldier on until [the government responds to our five demands].”
Those demands include the complete withdrawal of the proposed extradition bill, universal suffrage and amnesty for all those arrested in connection with the protests.
China slams ‘terrorist-like actions’ by Hong Kong protesters
Leung also reiterated the peaceful nature of Sunday’s march, encouraging all the “brave” protesters – meaning the more radical ones – to partake.
Most demonstrations begin peacefully, but some have devolved into chaotic confrontations. Protesters have in recent weeks thrown bricks and projectiles at the police, who have used tear gas, rubber bullets, pepper-spray, and batons on protesters.
The peaceful marketing of Sunday’s protest – “Peaceful, Rational, Nonviolent” – is an effort to restore the image of the pro-democracy movement after this past week’s polarizing airport protest.
After a five-day airport occupation that forced hundreds of flights to be cancelled, a group of protesters on Tuesday night beat and tied up two mainland Chinese men.
The incident has tarnished the movement’s image and caused a public outcry.
The Chinese government has also ramped up its fervor, saying radical protesters were showing signs of “terrorism” and circulating footage of troop build-ups in the bordering mainland city of Shenzhen.
Police say they’ve arrested more than 700 people since mass demonstrations kicked off in early June.
Since last weekend’s escalation, the past week has been relatively quiet as protesters and police alike seemed to take a few days to regroup. Several demonstrationsunfolded Saturday, including a teacher rally, a pro-government rally, and an anti-government march.
Sunday’s mass march was organized by the Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF) [Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters]