Hong Kong po­lice keep low pro­file

No re­ports of vi­o­lence at pro-democ­racy protest, af­ter reg­u­lar clashes with po­lice

The Peterborough Examiner - - Canada & World - KELVIN CHAN AND YANAN WANG

Hong Kong streets were turned into rivers of um­brel­las on Sun­day as hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple marched through heavy rain down a ma­jor road in the Chi­nese ter­ri­tory, where mas­sive pro-democ­racy demon­stra­tions have be­come a reg­u­lar week­end ac­tiv­ity. Or­ga­niz­ers said at least 1.7 mil­lion peo­ple par­tic­i­pated, though the po­lice es­ti­mate was far lower.

The as­sem­bly was peace­ful, with no re­ports of vi­o­lence, mak­ing for a rare calm week­end in a protest move­ment that has been marked by vi­o­lent clashes with po­lice. Law en­force­ment of­fi­cers kept a low pro­file, with no riot po­lice seen from the pro­ces­sion’s main routes. When strag­glers con­vened out­side a gov­ern­ment com­plex in the late evening, other pro­test­ers urged them to leave.

Demon­stra­tors who were shin­ing laser poin­t­ers at a gov­ern­ment build­ing were per­suaded to leave, prompt­ing ap­plause from oth­ers in the group.

“We hope to see whether the gov­ern­ment gives a re­sponse to this peace­ful protest,” said Michael Le­ung, a 24-year-old who was ush­er­ing his fel­low demon­stra­tors away. “If we get a neg­a­tive re­sponse, we can­not con­trol the next (gath­er­ing).”

Or­ga­nizer Bon­nie Le­ung of the Civil Hu­man Rights Front said ear­lier in the day that she hoped there would be no “chaotic sit­u­a­tions.”

“We hope we can show the world that Hong Kong peo­ple can be to­tally peace­ful,” she said.

The Civil Hu­man Rights Front had or­ga­nized three pre­vi­ous mas­sive marches in Hong Kong since June. The move­ment, how­ever, has been in­creas­ingly marked by clashes with po­lice as demon­stra­tors vent their frus­tra­tions over what they per­ceive to be the gov­ern­ment’s re­fusal to re­spond to their de­mands.

“Peace is the No. 1 pri­or­ity today,” said Kiki Ma, a 28-yearold ac­coun­tant who par­tic­i­pated in the march. “We want to show that we aren’t like the gov­ern­ment.”

While po­lice granted ap­proval for the rally, they didn’t ap­prove an ac­com­pa­ny­ing march. Demon­stra­tors nev­er­the­less fanned out and filled the streets, as there was not enough space at the des­ig­nated as­sem­bly area.

Pub­lic tran­sit trains did not stop at sta­tions near the as­sem­bly be­cause of over­crowd­ing.

Jimmy Shan of the Civil Hu­man Rights Front said the group es­ti­mated that at least 1.7 mil­lion peo­ple took part in the rally. He said the fig­ure did not in­clude those who were not able to make it to Vic­to­ria Park — where the march be­gan — due to traf­fic con­straints.

Po­lice, whose crowd fig­ures are gen­er­ally lower than the or­ga­niz­ers’ es­ti­mates, said the turnout at the as­signed lo­ca­tion and dur­ing the des­ig­nated pe­riod was 128,000. Many pro­test­ers, how­ever, did not fol­low the preap­proved guide­lines laid out by the author­i­ties.

In Bei­jing, You Wenze, a spokesper­son for China’s cer­e­mo­nial leg­is­la­ture, con­demned state­ments from U.S. law­mak­ers sup­port­ive of Hong Kong’s prodemoc­racy move­ment.

You called the law­mak­ers’ com­ments “a gross vi­o­la­tion of the spirit of the rule of law, a bla­tant dou­ble stan­dard and a gross in­ter­fer­ence in China’s in­ter­nal af­fairs.”

He said that Hong Kong’s 7.5 mil­lion peo­ple and the Chi­nese pop­u­la­tion as a whole re­jected the ac­tions of a “very small group of vi­o­lent pro­test­ers” as well as “any in­ter­fer­ence of for­eign forces.”

A former Bri­tish colony, Hong Kong was re­turned to Bei­jing in 1997 un­der the frame­work of “one coun­try, two sys­tems,” which promised res­i­dents cer­tain demo­cratic rights not af­forded to peo­ple in main­land China. But some Hong Kongers have ac­cused the Com­mu­nist par­tyruled cen­tral gov­ern­ment of erod­ing their free­doms.

The protest move­ment’s de­mands in­clude the res­ig­na­tion of Hong Kong Leader Car­rie Lam, demo­cratic elec­tions and an in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion into po­lice use of force.

VIN­CENT THIAN THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

A demon­stra­tor holds up a sign read­ing Back Away Slowly to en­cour­age other demon­stra­tors to leave the area near the Chi­nese Li­ai­son Of­fice in Hong Kong on Sun­day.

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