(TibetanReview.net, Aug19’19) – Amid speculations that China was threatening a possible 1989 Tiananmen Square bloodshed in Hong Kong, the special administrative region has seen some 1.7 million people taking to streets for the eleventh consecutive weekend of protests, demanding, among other things, that plans to allow extradition to mainland China be scrapped and investigation ordered into police excesses during previous protests.
Wielding umbrellas against the heavy rain, protesters packed out the city’s Victoria Park and spilled out to fill several major highways in the surrounding area, with many marching as far as government headquarters in spite of a police ban, raising the now-familiar chant of “Go Hongkongers!” reported the Cantonese Service of rfa.org Aug 18.
Hong Kong recorded three straight days of demonstrations that ended with no physical clashes between protesters and police, in a break from the troubling pattern of the past few weeks, which had prompted condemnation from the central and local governments, reported scmp.com Aug 19.
Organisers from the Civil Human Rights Front estimated 1.7 million people were at the core of the march, as volunteers counted the numbers just in the areas closest to the starting rally in Victoria Park, between Causeway Bay and Fortress Hill, the report said.
“There were large numbers of people from Causeway Bay to Central that we were unable to take into account, so I believe the actual turnout is much larger than 1.7 million,” the Front’s convenor, Jimmy Sham Tsz-kit, was quoted as saying. Police put the estimate at 128,000 as the rally peaked, the report added.
Nevertheless, the report said the Sunday (Aug 18) afternoon rally was the biggest since the Jul 1 march started taking shape. It said six soccer pitches and the central lawn in Victoria Park were blanketed in black by 3pm, prompting organisers to start marching in the direction of Wan Chai, even as more people tried to pour into the park.
“Today has been peaceful, which is exactly what [Hong Kong’s top leader] Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor asked for … Lam must respond to the five demands in order to show Hongkongers’ peaceful and rational expression can be heard, accepted and met,” Sham was quoted as saying.
The anti-extradition protests that have gripped the city since early June are making five key demands of Lam’s administration: the formal withdrawal of planned amendments to laws that would allow extradition of alleged criminal suspects to face trial in Chinese courts; an amnesty for arrested protesters; an end to the description of protesters as rioters; an independent inquiry into police abuse of power; and fully democratic elections.
The procession’s leaders were stated to include such pro-democracy veterans as Albert Ho Chun-yan, Lee Cheuk-yan and “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung. They ended the gathering at the Court of Final Appeal, where they called on marchers to disperse peacefully, the report said.
The report noted that in recent weeks, protesters and police both had escalated their use of force as the campaign against the extradition bill morphed into a full-blown anti-government movement.
It said petrol bombs, bricks, and other projectiles were hurled at a dozen police stations across the city as officers in return fired more tear gas, rubber bullets and beanbag rounds, one of which was believed to have hit a protester in the eye.
The report said More than 700 protesters had been arrested so far, including 149 last weekend alone.