Hundreds of pro-Beijing supporters in Hong Kong have sung the Chinese national anthem and waved red flags ahead of China’s National Day.
The show of support for Beijing came after another day of violence in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory that sparked fears of more ugly scenes that could embarrass Chinese president Xi Jinping as his ruling Communist Party marks its 70th year in power on Tuesday.
Pro-democracy advocates have called for a major rally to coincide with the celebrations in Beijing.
Police fired tear gas and water cannons on Saturday after protesters threw bricks and firebombs at government buildings following a massive rally in downtown Hong Kong.
The clashes were part of a familiar cycle since protests began in June over a now-shelved extradition bill and have since snowballed into an anti-China movement with demands for democratic reforms.
Protesters are planning to march on Tuesday despite a police ban.
Many said they will wear black in a direct challenge to the authority of the Communist Party, with posters calling for October 1 to be marked as “A Day of Grief.”
Protesters also plan to gather for an “anti-totalitarianism” rally against what they denounced as “Chinese tyranny”. on Sunday.
Similar events are being organised in over 60 cities worldwide including in the US, UK, Australia and Taiwan.
Hong Kong’s government has already scaled down National Day celebrations in the city, cancelling an annual firework display and moving a reception indoors.
We want to take this time for the people to express our love for our country China
Despite security concerns, the government said chief executive Carrie Lam will lead a delegation of over 240 people to Beijing on Monday to participate in the festivities.
She will be represented by chief secretary Matthew Cheung in her absence and return to the city on Tuesday evening.
Ms Lam held her first community dialogue with the public on Thursday in a bid to diffuse tensions but failed to persuade protesters, who vowed to press on until their demands including direct elections for the city’s leader and police accountability are met.
Several hundred people, many wearing red and carrying Chinese flags and posters, gathered at a waterfront cultural centre in the city on Sunday and chanted “I am a citizen of China.”
They sang the national anthem and happy birthday to China.
Organiser Innes Tang said the crowd, all Hong Kong citizens, responded to his invitation on social media to “promote positivity and patriotism”…
He said they wanted to rally behind Chinese sovereignty and urged protesters to replace violence with dialogue.
“We want to take this time for the people to express our love for our country China,” he said.
Mobs of pro-Beijing supporters have appeared in shopping centres and on the streets in recent weeks to counter pro-democracy protesters, leading to brawls between the rival camps.
Many people view the extradition bill, that would have sent criminal suspects to mainland China for trial, as a glaring example of the erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy under the “one country, two systems” policy when the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
China has denied chipping away at Hong Kong’s freedom and accused the US and other foreign powers of fomenting the unrest to weaken its dominance.