Several thousand people attended a student-led rally in Hong Kong’s Chater Garden on Friday, opening a series of protests in various parts of the one-time UK colony.
No violent incidents were reported at the pro-democracy rally, which was held with police permission at a public square at the city’s financial district.
Activists have announced several more rallies, including a Saturday demo in two harborside districts popular with tourists from mainland China. A separate, pro-government gathering under the slogan “Save Hong Kong” has also been scheduled for Saturday.
Observers expect the biggest crowd of pro-democracy would gather on Sunday for a rally organized by the Civil Human Rights Front, a protest organization that advocates non-violence.
The Friday rally was held under slogan ‘Stand with Hong Kong, Power to the People’
“This coming Sunday should be another million-strong march,” prominent pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo said on Facebook. Organizers have seen record-breaking crowds come out in support of the ten-week protest movement.
“Hong Kong people can’t be defeated, Hong Kongers soldier on,” Mo added.
Paramilitaries train in Shenzen
A large turnout would help the organizers move past this week’s violent incidents at Hong Kong airport, which saw protesters beat up two men they suspected of being Chinese agents. Airport officials were also forced to cancel thousands of flights due to the unrest.
Beijing slammed the violence and warned that the protests were showing the “sprouts of terrorism.”
At the same time, Chinese state media published images of troops and armored personnel carriers in Shenzen, the region separated from Hong Kong by the Sham Chun river. The central government said the exercises have been planned earlier and are not a direct reaction to the Hong Kong unrest.
However, members of China’s paramilitary People’s Armed Police were seen marching and practicing crowd control tactics at a sport complex in Shenzhen.
Yes to rally, no to city march
At a press conference, Hong Kong police commander Yeung Man-pun was asked if his forces were capable of controlling the situation or if the intervention from the mainland was becoming inevitable.
“I can tell you we’re confident the police have the capability to maintain law and order,” he responded.
The US has urged China not to send in troops, with US President Donald Trump calling on China’s Xi Jinping to settle the crisis “humanely.”
Hong Kong authorities allowed the protesters to gather in a park on Hong Kong island, but not to march through the city. In the past, protesters have ignored such limits, leading to scuffles with the police.
dj/kl (AFP, Reuters, AP)
Every evening, DW sends out a selection of the day’s news and features. Sign up here.