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Hong Kong protesters march in peace after chaos

August 18, 2019

Hundreds of thousands of pro-democracy protesters have marched calmly in the city's center to "show the world that Hong Kong people can be totally peaceful." The day of peace marks the 11th week of demonstrations.

A replica of the Goddess of Democracy statue wearing a hard hat, gas mask, handcuffs and covered in a red liquid is displayed during a demonstration at Victoria Park in Hong Kong
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/K. Cheung

A sea of pro-democracy protesters marched in central Hong Kong's Victoria Park on Sunday, a contrast to recent rallies characterized by clashes with police.

Despite the heavy rainfall, umbrella-ready protesters occupied a 5-kilometer stretch of road in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory after the designated public park could not contain the large number of participants.

Organizers said 1.7 million people took part in what they hoped was return to peaceful protests after past weekends saw violence between police and more hardcore demonstrators. Authorities gave a much lower attendance figure.

"Today is a day of peace," said organizer Bonnie Leung. "We can show the world that Hong Kong people can be totally peaceful."

She added that police would be to blame if any chaos erupted. 

Hong Kong's elderly and young children also joined in to express their anger over the government and police brutality.

Read more: Hong Kong protests call for democracy, rally for China

Police approve limited march

Police had granted approval for the rally but did not approve an accompanying march.

Nevertheless, demonstrators filled the streets in central Hong Kong and said they were determined to show the government that they would not give up until their demands were met.

"We will stand here; we will take action, until they respond to us. ... Together we have more power," said Harley Ho, a 20-year-old student, undeterred by the heavy rain.

Public transit trains did not stop on Sunday at stations close to the protest due to overcrowding. 

Defending police actions

Hong Kong's government, meanwhile, defended what human rights group Amnesty International called a "heavy-handed" response during previous protests.

"Only when they were violently attacked and left with no choice did the police use minimum force to disperse protesters in order to restore social order," a Hong Kong government statement said.

The statement added that 180 police officers had been injured in recent weeks and that officers have been "under tremendous work pressure" due to "long hours" and were only committed to maintaining law and order. 

Protests drag on

The peaceful march marks the 11th week of protests, which initially began against plans to allow extradition to mainland China.

Protesters are now demanding the resignation of the city's leader, Carrie Lam, as well as fully democratic elections and an independent investigation into what they claim is police brutality against the protesters.

You Wenze, a spokesperson for China's ceremonial legislature, has condemned statements from US lawmakers supportive of Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement, calling them a "gross interference in China's internal affairs."

Wenze said that Hong Kong and the Chinese population as a whole reject the actions of a "very small group of violent protesters."

Read more: Cathay Pacific CEO quits over Hong Kong protest blowback

Sympathy rallies in Canada

Thousands of protesters demonstrated across Canada in solidarity with the Hong Kong democracy movement on Saturday. Meanwhile, pro-China rallies also took off there.

Large crowds gathered in front of a metro station in Vancouver and were separated by police, and supporters from both sides also confronted each other in Toronto.

Local media reported that the atmosphere is tense in both cities, both of which are home to a large Chinese community.

kw,mvb/rc (AFP,AP, Reuters)

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