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Hong Kong police fire tear gas as thousands stage march for democracy

Pro-democracy candidates won district council elections in the province a week earlier.

A pro-democracy protester runs away from the tear gas fired by riot police during a rally in Hong Kong (Ng Han Guan/AP)
A pro-democracy protester runs away from the tear gas fired by riot police during a rally in Hong Kong (Ng Han Guan/AP)

By Eileen Ng, Associated Press

Hong Kong police fired tear gas as a huge crowd took to the streets to demand more democracy and an investigation into the use of force to crack down on the six-month anti-government demonstrations.

Thousands turned out, from hardened youthful protesters in black outfits and face masks, to parents with their children.

Marching near the waterfront on the Kowloon side of Victoria Harbour, they sought to keep the pressure on city leader Carrie Lam after pro-democracy candidates won district council elections a week earlier.

“If we don’t walk out, the government will say it’s just a youth issue, but this is a Hong Kong problem that affects all of us,” Lily Chau said as she pushed her toddler in a buggy. “If we are scared, the government will continue to trample on our rights.”

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Pro-democracy protesters raise their hands to symbolise the five demands of the pro-democracy movement (Vincent Thian/AP)

Many held up a hand to indicate the five demands of the movement and shouted “Five demands, not one less” and “Disband the police force”.

The Kowloon rally was cut short after riot police fired tear gas and arrested a few people. A police statement said minimum force was deployed after “hundreds of rioters hurled smoke bombs” and bricks to cause chaos.

Marchers berated police as they scrambled to flee the tear gas, shouting “Dirty cops” and “Are you trying to kill us?”

Police fired pepper spray and tear gas in some areas. Protesters dug up paving stones and threw them in the street to try to slow the police down.

Hong Kong’s protests have been relatively peaceful during the two weeks around the November 24 election but could turn violent again if the government does not bend to the demands.

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Pro-democracy protesters flood a street during a rally in Hong Kong (Vincent Thian/AP)

Ms Lam has said she will accelerate dialogue but has not yielded any ground since the vote. Her government has accepted one demand — withdrawing extradition legislation that could have sent suspects to mainland China for trial — but not the others.

Elaine Wong, an office worker, called the recent election an empty victory.

“We have in actual fact not won any concessions for our demands,” she said. “We must continue to stand out to remind the government of our unhappiness.”

Earlier marches on Sunday appealed to President Donald Trump for help and demanded that police stop using tear gas.

A group dressed in black and wearing masks carried American flags as it headed to the US Consulate to express gratitude for legislation aimed at protecting human rights in Hong Kong that Mr Trump signed into law last week.

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Protesters holding American flags stage a rally outside the US Consulate in Hong Kong (Vincent Thian/AP)

Some held banners reading “President Trump, please liberate Hong Kong” and “Let’s make Hong Kong great again” — a riff on his 2016 campaign pledge to make America great again. One showed him standing atop a tank with “Trump” emblazoned on the front and side.

A peaceful crowd of about 200 adults and young children marched to government headquarters in the morning and chanted “No more tear gas”.

“A lot of parents are worried that their children are affected, because their children are coughing, breaking out in rashes and so forth,” said march organiser Leo Kong, a 40-year-old social worker.

In Geneva, China accused the UN high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, of emboldening “radical violence” in Hong Kong.

In an opinion piece published on Saturday in the South China Morning Post, a Hong Kong newspaper, Ms Bachelet called for an “independent and impartial judge-led investigation into reports of excessive use of force by the police”.

She also said that Ms Lam’s government must prioritise “meaningful, inclusive” dialogue to resolve the crisis.

China’s UN mission in Geneva said the article interferes in the internal affairs of China and exerts pressure on the city’s government and police, which “will only embolden the rioters to conduct more severe radical violence”.

It said that Ms Bachelet made “inappropriate comments” on the situation in Hong Kong and that the Chinese side had lodged a strong protest in response.

PA

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