Hong Kong readies for further protests after huge, peaceful rally

Cheryl Sanders
August 22, 2019

Organizers estimated at least 1.7 million people had turned out - almost 1 in 4 of the total population of more than 7 million - making it the second-largest march of the movement, after a protest by almost 2 million June 16.

Going into the weekend, questions remained on whether the demonstrations would stay peaceful after violence broke out at the Hong Kong airport last weekend.

Clashes between protesters and police grew more intense last week when demonstrators organized a city-wide strike and stormed Hong Kong International Airport, forcing the cancellation of numerous flights in and out of the world's busiest airport for two days. While those marches were peaceful, the movement has been increasingly marked by clashes between protesters and police. The weekend was also noteworthy for a lack of tear gas use by police.

The protests, which have presented one of the biggest challenges for Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012, began in June as opposition to a now-suspended bill that would allow suspects to be extradited to mainland China for trial in Communist Party-controlled courts.

Many demonstrators said they are anxious that their freedoms will continue to erode as China's Communist Party-ruled central government keeps flexing its muscle in Hong Kong, the former British colony that was given back to China in 1997 and has since become a global financial hub.

Demonstrators are also demanding democratic election, an investigation of police use of force, and the resignation of Hong Kong's chief executive, Carrie Lam, whom protesters consider a tool of the Chinese government.

"We can't take it anymore", he said.

Mr You said Hong Kong's 7.5 million people and Chinese population as a whole rejected the actions of a "very small group of violent protesters" as well as "any interference of foreign forces".

"If you ask me, I personally hope there will be a quick resolution to this from the government so we don't have to protest any more".

By early evening, various districts were thronged with people who spilled out from the park in different directions, marching on major roads, tramways and side streets.

On Sunday morning, parishioners at St John's Cathedral in Hong Kong's financial district prayed for wisdom and responsiveness from government leaders, 'be they freely elected or imposed'. Pro-democrats and pro-Beijing supporters held duelling protests again the next day outside the Chinese consulate in the city.

That includes the recent re-introduction of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act in Congress, which would among its other provisions require the secretary of state to issue an annual certification of Hong Kong's autonomy to justify special treatment afforded to the city.

There have been increasingly stark warnings from Beijing over the protests, and state media has run images of military personnel and armoured personnel carriers across the border in Shenzhen.

More directly, President Donald Trump could issue an executive order suspending Hong Kong's special trading status with the USA, which could have a devastating effect on the local economy at a time when Beijing and Washington are engaged in a bitter trade war.

"We strongly condemn the extreme violence by the radical demonstrators and we strongly support the Hong Kong government to safeguard Hong Kong basic laws and Hong Kong police to stop the spread of the violence and the lawlessness", said Hilbert Yiu, president of the group.

"I think it would be very hard to deal if they do violence".

Over 700 people have been arrested since the protests began in June.

China's ambassador to Australia has told The Sydney Morning Herald matters in Hong Kong are exclusively the internal affairs of China. The State Council called on Monday for greater development of the so-called Greater Bay Area and to enrich the "one country, two systems" policy.

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