Hong Kong, Aug 18 (IANS) The 11th weekend of protests in Hong Kong got off to a peaceful start on Saturday before a moderate degree of tension flared again between police and pro-democracy activists.
After an anti-government rally on the afternoon in the residential area of Hung Hom, some protesters headed to Mong Kok, a bustling shopping district three metro stops away. A spontaneous change of location after a protest has become somewhat of a regular pattern for younger demonstrators in the ongoing anti-government movement in Hong Kong that began in June, Efe news reported.
Police geared up in two other districts in Kowloon – Prince Edward, which is adjacent to Mong Kok, and the tourist district of Tsim Sha Tsui. Tension was concentrated in Mong Kok, where some protesters hurled eggs at police officers guarding a local police station early evening.
At around 7.30 p.m., a public trash can was thrown in the direction of police from a footbridge, but tension was short-lived and the riot police left before 8 p.m..
Three marches took place in different parts of Hong Kong on Saturday. In late morning, 22,000 teachers and other citizens braved heavy rain to join the “Safeguard the next generation, let our conscience speak” rally, in a show of support for young protesters.
At 3.30 p.m., a second anti-government themed “Reclaim our soil, restore our peace” kicked off in the residential districts of Hung Hom and To Kwa Wan.
The objective of the event was to protest against the influx of shopping tour groups from mainland China, which many local residents consider a nuisance disrupting their day-to-day life, but protesters also chanted slogans involving five demands repeatedly voiced over the past 10 weeks.
The demands include the complete withdrawal of a controversial extradition bill that sparked the anti-government movement, and the establishment of an independent body to inquire alleged police brutality in protests.
A 50-year-old local resident who identified himself as Dickson stood on the roadside and cheered on the marchers. He told Efe, “The government has completely ignored people’s demands. Seeing the young people come out on the streets, I sometimes think we older people have not done enough for them and that’s why Hong Kong has come down to this.”
At the other end of the political and social spectrum, thousands of people turned up at an “anti-violence” rally in Tamar Park near the government headquarters. The pro-government demonstrators, including pro-Beijing lawmakers and real estate businessmen, chanted slogans such as “Save Hong Kong” and “Safeguard the rule of law”.
Seven demands were voiced at the event, including “end violence”, “don’t disturb people” and “uphold the rule of law”.
Speaking to journalists, Peter Woo Kwong-ching, billionaire businessman and chairman of Wheelock and Company Limited, said, “Violence is very scary. If one doesn’t speak out but stays silence, it would only attract more violence.”
Organisers of the rally said 476,000 people attended the rally, while police put the figure at 108,000.
With the three rallies having led to no major clashes, many Hongkongers may be able to heave a sigh of relief – for now. Another anti-government protest will be held tomorrow at Hong Kong’s biggest park and a big turn-out is expected.
Since June, Hong Kong has been rocked by a wave of protests because of the extradition bill, which would have enabled fugitives to be extradited from Hong Kong to mainland China.
Though the bill has been declared “dead” by the city’s top leader Carrie Lam, the civil campaign against it has since morphed into a broader movement seeking to reverse a general decline in freedoms and investigate police brutality.