Pro-democracy protesters were defiant in the face of attacks by opponents and warnings by the Hong Kong government to clear the streets, staging a massive rally Saturday evening in the downtown business district they’ve occupied for a week.
“Democracy now! Democracy in Hong Kong!” thousands chanted as speakers from the movement seeking wider political reforms for this former British colony urged them to persist in their campaign. The rally lasted hours, with participants at times clapping and cheering as a stream of speakers and singers addressed them and performed popular songs.
“We are not seeking revolution. We just want democracy!” said Joshua Wong, a 17-year-old student leader. “We hope there will be no violence,” he said. “It would be unfortunate if this movement ended with bloodshed and violence.”
After the rally ended, people grew nervous due to rumors that police would act to clear out the protesters in the middle of the night. But big crowds still filled the protest area after midnight.
Standoffs between the protesters and their antagonists grew ugly during the day, as the two sides traded insults and at times taunted police. The city’s leader said streets occupied by the protest must be opened back up by Monday.
Although the mostly student-led protesters have stuck to their pledges of non-violence, holding up their arms to show peaceful resistance, some shouted abuse at people who gathered to challenge their occupation of a major street in the gritty, blue-collar Mong Kok district, home to many migrants from the Chinese mainland.
“Go back to the mainland,” some shouted, cursing them in the local dialect of Cantonese.
Minor skirmishes broke out constantly, broken up by police or bystanders. Adding to the disorder, some residents dumped water from their apartments onto the people below.
The students accused police of failing to protect them from attacks Friday by mobs intent on driving them away, shouting “Black Police!” a reference to their claim that the police had allied with criminal gangs, to clear out the protesters. The claim was vehemently denied by the government.
Chief Secretary Leung Chun-ying, appeared on TV Saturday evening to once again urge everyone to go home, saying things needed to be normal by Monday.