Tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters marched peacefully through the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday, the 11th weekend in a row of anti-government demonstrations.
Heavy rain fell on the protesters, but the size of the crowd showed the movement aimed at easing Beijing’s control of the territory still has wide public support.
The Civil Human Rights Front, the driving force behind the protests throughout the summer, called for a “rational, non-violent” demonstration on Sunday. Protesters had previously clashed with police in the streets during other weekend protests and for two days last week at Hong Kong’s international airport, leading to the cancellation of nearly 1,000 flights.
“Peace is the No. 1 priority today,” Kiki Ma, a 28-year-old accountant told the Associated Press. “We want to show that we aren’t like the government.”
Umbrella-carrying demonstrators chanted, “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.”
The demonstrations began as peaceful protests to stop an extradition bill that allowed for sending criminal suspects to Mainland China for trial. The extradition bill has been suspended, but the protests continue as Hong Kong residents worry about the erosion of freedoms guaranteed under the “one country, two systems” mandate that has been in place since the territory’s return from British control.
The protests have coalesced around five demands, including the complete withdrawal of the extradition bill, an investigation of police violence during the protests and exoneration for all those arrested in the demonstrations.
Most iterations of the demands call for the resignation of Carrie Lam, the Beijing-backed chief executive in Hong Kong, and some form of enhanced democratic freedoms, such as universal suffrage, which was promised to Hong Kong under the terms of its 1997 return from British rule to China.
China’s paramilitary troops have been training in Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong, causing concern that China is ready to send in troops to suppress the protests.
Hong Kong’s police have insisted they are able to handle the demonstrators.
China has increasingly adopted a tougher tone about the protests, calling the demonstrators “terrorists.” One statement last week said the protesters had “entirely ruptured legal and moral bottom lines.”
Beijing has also condemned statements from U.S. lawmakers supporting the pro-democracy aims of the protesters.
You Wenze, a spokesman for China’s ceremonial legislature, called the lawmakers’ comments “a gross violation of the spirit of the rule of law, a blatant double standard and a gross interference in China’s internal affairs.”
U.S. President Donald Trump, whose administration is engaged in a lengthy tit-for-tat tariff war with China as the world’s two biggest economies try to negotiate a new trade pact, said last week that Chinese President Xi Jinping should personally negotiate with the demonstrators to reach an accord on the rights of Hong Kong’s 7.5 million people.
“If President Xi would meet directly and personally with the protesters, there would be a happy and enlightened ending to the Hong Kong problem. I have no doubt!” Trump said on Twitter.
Source: Voice of America