Logo


Thousands march peacefully in Hong Kong defying police ban on mass rally

Police blocked plans for a mass show of force downtown to mark the fifth anniversary of a decision by China to curtail democratic reforms in the former British colony

hong kong protests
Hong Kong Protesters

Thousands marched peacefully in Hong Kong on Saturday in pouring rain, the latest of a series of anti-government protests that have plunged the Chinese-ruled city into its worst political crisis in decades.
 
Police blocked plans for a mass show of force downtown to mark the fifth anniversary of a decision by China to curtail democratic reforms in the former British colony, which returned to China in 1997.
 
People took to the streets anyway, many joining a "Christian march" from the Wanchai entertainment district in a sea of umbrellas, heading to government offices on the lower reaches of the Mid-Levels residential district.
 
Others marched in the Causeway Bay shopping district, the latest in a string of protests, some violent, stretching back to June.
"Hong Kong has religious freedom," Sally Yeung, 27, a Christian, told Reuters. "We are praying at different check points and praying for justice to arrive in Hong Kong.
 
"If they prosecute us simply because we are praying, they infringe our religious freedom."
 
Hovering under an umbrella outside the government offices, Eric, a 22-year-old student, said, "Telling us not to protest is like telling us not to breathe. I feel it's my duty to fight for democracy. Maybe we win, maybe we lose. But we fight." The MTR subway temporarily closed one station on the western approach to the planned protest site because of likely "public activities" and said further action was possible.
 
Police erected water-filled plastic barriers around key government buildings and two water cannon, used briefly for the first time last weekend, were parked near the Liaison Office, the symbol of Chinese sovereignty that was daubed with graffiti in an earlier protest.
 
Police arrested a number of prominent pro-democracy activists on Friday, seeking to rein in a movement which started with anger over planned legislation allowing extraditions to mainland China and broadened into calls for democracy amid fears China is squeezing Hong Kong's freedoms.
 
The latest protests have no leaders. Marchers on Saturday were marching here and there, wherever streets took them, communicating with different hand signals.
 
China denies the charge of meddling in Hong Kong, which it says is an internal affair. It has denounced the protests and warned of the damage to the economy.
 
Beijing has also accused foreign powers, particularly the United States and Britain, of fomenting the demonstrations and warned against foreign interference.
 
There have been frequent clashes between protesters and police, who have often fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse crowds, amid accusations of excessive force.
 
"A lot of people from the outside think it is the police who escalate (the violence) first," a police officer told a media briefing. "This is not true."
 
An off-duty policeman was attacked late on Friday night by three unidentified men with a knife in the Kwai Chung container port area, suffering wounds to his limbs and back, police said.
 
The news was a top-trending topic on China's Twitter-like Weibo.
 
With protesters and authorities locked in an impasse and Hong Kong facing its first recession in a decade, speculation has grown that the city government may impose emergency laws, giving it extra powers over detentions, censorship and curfews.