With yellow and white hard hats on, a sea of people, mostly clad in black, chanted “age of revolution!”, “Hongkongers ass oil!”. This is how the activists kicked off anti-government demonstrations in Hong Kong’s Mong Kok on Saturday marking another weekend of protest against a proposed bill allowing people to be extradited to undergo trial in mainland China. With civil servants joining the protests despite warning from the administration, the protesters have called for a mass strike on Monday.
Besides, protesters removed a Chinese national flag from its pole and flung it into the city’s iconic Victoria Harbour on Saturday after a pro-democracy rally once again continued into the evening despite police warnings to stick to a short, pre-approved route.
The Hong Kong protesters defied police warnings and went past the designated endpoint for the Saturday’s rally in Mong Kok. Shopowners pulled their shutters down in anticipation of prolonged demonstration. The protests, which commenced in June, have escalated every weekend with the protestors accusing police of applying excessive force and failing to protect the demonstrators from suspected mob attacks.
According to Reuters, the crowd was mostly young, with the exceptions of some joined by families and a few senior citizens. They all stood in solidarity with the protesters who have been calling for greater rights and government accountability over the past two months. “We are here because we want to stick up for Hong Kong. We don’t need an evil law to take over Hong Kong,” Reuters reported a woman as saying. Ignoring warning from the authorities to stay politically neutral, thousands of civil servants had joined the protests on Friday.
Meanwhile, thousands of people, mostly in white, gathered for a separate rally in Victoria Park in support of the police on Saturday. The crowd shouted slogans and waved Chinese and Hong Kong flags. Pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho said, “We are the real Hong Kong people who are not the same as those black-shirted thugs. We don’t need a so-called ‘HK revolution’, we only need to do our best, which is enough,” Reuters reported.
However, more anti-government protests are scheduled for Sunday with a mass strike on Monday, as the protesters continue to be angered over the government’s refusal to communicate, violent ways of police to put an end to the protests and the arrest of 44 people this week on rioting charges.
The Xinhua News Agency on Friday had quoted China’s State Councilor Yang Jiechi who blamed the US and some western governments for fanning the unrest in Hong Kong. Earlier, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam and other officials and diplomats had also claimed that “western forces” were behind the protests. According to reports by the Chinese media, the head of the police union had called for a probe into the alleged role of the US in the Hong Kong crisis.
Meanwhile, a group of opposition lawmakers in the US called on the Trump administration to stop the sale of munitions and crowd-control equipment to Hong Kong’s police force, which has been accused of applying excessive force on the protesters.
Under Chinese rule, Hong Kong has been allowed to retain extensive freedoms. However, many residents see the extradition bill as the latest step towards giving in to mainland control. The political crisis that the protests have brought to the country are the most serious of its kind since Hong Kong to China 22 years ago. They also pose a major challenge to Chinese President Xi Jinping who is already grappling with an accelerating trade war with the US and a slowing economy in a politically-sensitive year.
(With inputs from Reuters, AP)
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