Young and old gather for pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong
Demonstrators are angry over a perceived erosion of their rights promised when the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
Hundreds of older activists have joined young protesters for a unity rally at a Hong Kong park, vowing that their months-long movement will not fade away until there is greater democracy in the Chinese territory.
Saturday’s rally is among several peaceful gatherings by protesters this week to keep up pressure on the government, amid a lull in violence following a local election victory by the pro-democracy bloc and US support for their cause.
A local boys’ band played songs to tell protesters that the “whole of Hong Kong is supporting you”.
Speakers reminded the crowd it was not time to celebrate and that the fight for real autonomy must persist.
Many are angry over a perceived erosion of their rights promised when the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
“The government wants us to desert the front-liners and young protesters, but we will stick with them,” said rally organiser Tam Kwok-sun, 64, to loud cheers from the crowd.
“Sometimes their actions are violent and aggressive, but we are more unhappy with the government’s behaviour.”
Since the unrest broke out in June, protesters have disrupted traffic, smashed public facilities and pro-China shops, and hurled petrol bombs in battles with riot police who have responded with volleys of tear gas and water cannon.
The occupation of several universities by protesters earlier this month after fiery clashes with police capped one of the most violent chapters in the turmoil, which has contributed to the city’s first recession in a decade.
Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, has appealed for the current calm to continue but has refused to bow to protesters’ demands, which include free elections for her post and the legislature as well as an independent probe into alleged police brutality.
“It’s still a very early stage of the revolution,” said a masked activist, who gave her name as Mai, 26. “People are tired physically and mentally, so we are waiting for the right moment for a fightback.”
Hong Kong police have arrested 5,890 people as a result of the protests.
“The government is still stubborn. Every one of us, young and old, must contribute in our own way. The movement will not stop,” said 63-year-old woman who identified herself as Mrs Tam.
Protesters this week have urged Britain and other countries to follow US footsteps in legislating laws to support its cause.
One of the new US laws prescribes sanctions on officials found guilty of human rights abuses and requires an annual review of a special trade status for Hong Kong. The other bans the export of certain non-lethal munitions to Hong Kong police.
China has warned of strong countermeasures and Hong Kong’s government has slammed the US move as unwarranted meddling in its affairs.
More rallies are being planned for Sunday, including an anti-tear gas protest and a gratitude march to the US Consulate.