‘I feel this is our duty’: Hong Kong protesters defy police ban to march
Shops close their doors as thousands take to the streets seeking pro-democracy reforms
Protesters at a pro-democracy march in Hong Kong on Sunday. Millions have taken part in demonstrations over the last three months which have morphed into calls for democracy and complaints against the erosion of freedoms under Beijing’s rule. Photograph: Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images.
Thousands of demonstrators have marched through Hong Kong in defiance of a police ban, as shops closed amid fears of renewed violence.
A mixed crowd of hardcore protesters in black and wearing masks, along with families with children, spilled into the roads of the Causeway Bay shopping belt and marched for more than a mile to the Central business district.
Some waved US and British flags, while others carried posters reiterating their calls for democratic reforms.
Police had turned down a request by the Civil Human Rights Front to hold the march, but the demonstrators were undeterred, as they have been all summer.
“I feel this is our duty. The government wants to block us with the ban, but I want to say that the people will not be afraid,” said one protester, Winnie Leung.
The march disrupted traffic and many shops closed their doors. Some protesters used traffic cones, metal fencing and rubbish bins to set up road barriers.
Police warned in a statement that the assembly was illegal and urged protesters to “stop their illegal acts”.
Police erected barriers outside the government office complex and water cannon trucks were seen stationed outside the Beijing liaison office.
The protests were triggered in June by an extradition bill that many saw as an example of China’s increasing intrusion and at chipping away at Hong Kong residents’ freedoms and rights, many of which are not accorded to people in mainland China.
Hong Kong’s government promised this month to withdraw the bill, which would have allowed some criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial, but protesters have widened their demands to include direct elections for the city’s leaders and police accountability.
There have been increasing clashes between protesters and police, who demonstrators have accused of abuses.
More than 1,300 people have been arrested since the protests started.
The unrest has battered Hong Kong’s economy, which was already reeling from the US-China trade war. It is also seen as an embarrassment to China’s ruling Communist Party ahead of October 1 National Day celebrations.
Earlier on Sunday, hundreds of protesters waved British flags, sang God Save The Queen and chanted “UK save Hong Kong” outside the British Consulate as they stepped up calls for international support for their campaign.
With banners declaring “one country, two systems is dead,” they repeated calls for Hong Kong’s former colonial ruler to ensure the city’s autonomy is upheld under agreements made when it ceded power to China in 1997.
Demonstrators held similar rallies on September 1st at the British facility and last weekend at the US Consulate. - AP