HONG KONG: Tens of thousands of Hong Kong democracy activists gathered yesterday for a major rally to show the city’s leaders their protest movement still attracts wide public support, despite mounting violence and increasingly stark warnings from Beijing.
The financial hub has been plunged into crisis by ten weeks of demonstrations, with images of masked black-clad protesters engulfed by tear gas during street battles against riot police stunning a city once renowned for its stability.
Communist-ruled mainland China has taken an increasingly hardline tone towards the protesters, decrying the ‘terrorist-like’ actions of a violent hardcore minority among the demonstrators.
Despite the near-nightly clashes with police, the movement has won few concessions from Beijing or the city’s unelected leadership.
On Tuesday, protesters blocked passengers from boarding flights at the city’s airport and later assaulted two men they accused of being Chinese spies.
The images damaged a campaign that until then had largely targeted the police or government institutions, and prompted an apology from some protest groups.
Yesterday’s rally, which started at the city’s Victoria Park, is an attempt to wrestle the narrative of the protest back.
It is a ‘rational, non-violent’ demonstration, according to organisers the Civil Human Rights Front, the driving force behind record-breaking rallies in June and July that saw hundreds of thousands of people hit the streets.
Police have given permission for the rally to go ahead but banned a proposed march.
Protesters flouted that order, flooding the streets on Sunday afternoon as they marched through the heart of Hong Kong island despite driving rain. — AFP