Pro-democracy protesters march on a street in Hong Kong, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. Marchers are again expected to fill Hong Kong streets Sunday in a rally that will test the enduring appeal of an anti-government movement marking a half year of demonstrations. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

Hong Kong protests mark 6-month mark with massive rally

Many marchers held up five fingers to press the movement’s five demands

Almost hidden among the throngs of demonstrators who marched in Hong Kong on Sunday was one woman who crawled, literally on hands and knees on the rough road surface — an apt metaphor for the arduous path travelled by Hong Kong’s protest movement in the past six months.

Dragging bricks and empty soda cans on pieces of string behind her, the young woman elicited shouts of encouragement from fellow protesters. “Go for it!” they yelled.

“Her performance art is about the difficulty, or the repetitiveness, of demonstrations,” said one of her friends, who walked alongside and identified herself by her surname, Chan. “This is really a long-term struggle.”

And one that shows few, if any, signs of flagging.

Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators crammed into Hong Kong’s streets, their chants echoing off high-rises, in a mass show of support for the protest movement entering its seventh month.

Chanting “Fight for freedom” and “Stand with Hong Kong,” the sea of protesters formed a huge human snake winding for blocks on Hong Kong Island, from the Causeway Bay shopping district to the Central business zone, a distance of more than 2 kilometres (1 1/4 miles). It was one of the biggest rallies in months, and remarkably peaceful.

Crowds were so large and dense that the march ground to a standstill at times. Protesters spilled into narrow side streets, crying “Revolution in our times.” Organizers said 800,000 people participated, while police had no immediate estimate.

VIDEO: Hong Kong police shoot protester, man set on fire

The demonstrator who crawled part of the route wouldn’t give her name. But her protest turned heads, gave pause for thought and raised the question: How much longer can Hong Kong keep up its push to preserve its freedoms that make it unique among China’s cities?

She offered this cryptic response.

“We have too much burden, but perhaps we have enough hope to make us go further,” she said.

Many marchers held up five fingers to press the movement’s five demands. They include democratic elections for Hong Kong’s leader and legislature and a demand for a probe of police behaviour during the months of sustained protests.

Marchers said they hoped the huge turnout might help win concessions from the government of Chief Executive Carrie Lam. Protesters spanned generations. One man’s young son marched in his Spiderman suit.

“So many people are still supporting this movement. You can see how determined Hong Kong people are,” said demonstrator Justin Ng, a 20-year-old student.

“I heard a small kid yelling slogans — 4, 5 years old,” Ng said. “That really encouraged me because it’s not just this generation but future generations, too.”

Marchers said protesting has become part of the fabric of their lives since mass demonstrations erupted in June against a now-withdrawn government measure that would have allowed criminal suspects to be sent for trial in Communist Party-controlled courts in mainland China.

READ MORE: Hong Kong pro-democracy rally cut short by police tear gas

The protests have since snowballed into a broad anti-government campaign, presenting the communist leadership in Beijing with a major headache and battering Hong Kong’s economy.

Police in riot gear deployed in numbers on the edges of the march. Earlier in the day, they arrested 11 people and seized a cache of weapons, including a firearm with more than 100 bullets. Police said the suspects apparently planned to use the weapons during the protest to frame police, who have been accused of using excessive force against the protesters.

Violence was limited, with a bank vandalized and police reporting that gasoline bombs were thrown outside Hong Kong’s High Court.

Rally organizer Eric Lai had called for police restraint and for no use of tear gas.

“We hope this will be a signature for our movement after six months to show to Carrie Lam as well as to the world that people are not giving up. People will still fight for our freedom and democracy,” Lai said.

Authorities, who have liberally used tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets at previous demonstrations, say force has been necessary to disperse hard-core protesters who have battled riot officers, vandalized shops and thrown gasoline bombs. Police banned mass marches as protests turned increasingly violent, but relented and allowed Sunday’s march after a few weeks of relative peace.

The rally was called by the Civil Human Rights Front, a group that has organized some of the biggest demonstrations since hundreds of thousands of protesters first marched on June 9 against the extradition bill.

Chief among the protesters’ complaints Sunday was that police have been overly heavy-handed, making thousands of arrests since June.

“They are out of control,” said Ernest Yau, a 28-year-old consultant. He said the movement has brought Hong Kong together.

“We understand our common enemy,” he said. “We understand that we have to be united to fight against China, to fight against a government that doesn’t listen to its people.”

READ MORE: Pro-democracy camp wins Hong Kong elections in landslide

___

Associated Press videojournalist Katie Tam contributed to this report.

John Leicester, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Mental Health: Fractured services leave community to fill gaps

Greater Victoria service providers working together to help youth

Bag containing meat, sewing needles found by dog owner in Cordova Bay

Saanich police don’t believe it’s a trend

UVic creates emergency bursary for students facing hardships due to COVID-19

Students can apply by emailing the financial aid office

Colwood Spring Clean-Up postponed, branch drop-off continues

Strict measures in place for branch drop-off

Peninsula organizations fund food bank ahead of ‘looming crisis’

Saanich Peninsula Lions Food Bank receives more than $5,000 from local organizations

‘Hold our line’: 29 new cases of COVID-19 announced in B.C.

Saturday’s number of new cases marks the lowest in weeks.

Two inmates found positive for COVID-19 at federal prison in B.C.; other tests pending

15 staff self-isolating waiting results, refusal to work notice sent, says correctional officer

Critic, workers’ group ‘disappointed’ Trudeau chose Amazon to distribute PPE

Amazon Canada said in an email to The Canadian Press that it is working with Canada Post, Purolator

Full World COVID-19 update: National Guard collect ventilators in New York; Spain, Italy improve

Comprehensive coronavirus update with news from around the world.

Nanaimo’s Harmac mill works to fill doubled pulp order for medical masks and gowns

Mill’s president says extra cleaning in place and workers are social distancing

Two people fined after B.C. police spot online ads re-selling 5,000 surgical, N95 masks

Police confiscated the masks, being sold at inflated prices, and now working with Fraser Health

Unclear if Cowichan couple refusing to self-isolate will face penalty

No fines or charges have been laid to date, including Cowichan couple who won’t self isolate

POLL: Will you be able to make your rent or mortgage payment this month?

With the COVID-19 delivering a devastating blow to the global economy, and… Continue reading

COVID-19: Postponed surgeries will be done, B.C. health minister says

Contract with private surgical clinic to help clear backlog

Most Read