Tens of thousands of Hong Kong democracy activists gathered Sunday for a major rally to show the city’s leaders their protest movement still attracts wide public support, despite mounting violence and increasingly stark warnings from Beijing.
Ten weeks of demonstrations have plunged the financial hub into crisis with images of masked black-clad protesters engulfed by tear gas during street battles with riot police stunning a city once renowned for its stability.
Communist-ruled mainland China has taken an increasingly hardline tone towards the protesters, decrying the “terrorist-like” actions of a violent hardcore minority among the demonstrators.
Despite the near-nightly clashes with police, the movement has won few concessions from Beijing or the city’s unelected leadership.
On Tuesday, protesters blocked passengers from boarding flights at the city’s airport and later assaulted two men they accused of being Chinese spies.
The images damaged a campaign that until then had largely targeted the police or government institutions, and prompted an apology from some of the protest groups.
Sunday’s rally at the city’s Victoria Park is an attempt to wrestle the narrative of the protest back.
It is a “rational, non-violent” demonstration, according to organisers the Civil Human Rights Front, the driving force behind record-breaking rallies in June and July that saw hundreds of thousands of people hit the streets.
Police have given permission for the rally to go ahead but banned a proposed march.
Protesters flouted that order, flooding the streets on Sunday afternoon as they marched through the heart of Hong Kong island despite driving rain.
“If Beijing and Hong Kong’s tactic is to wait for our movement to die, they are wrong… we will soldier on,” CHRF spokeswoman Bonnie Leung told reporters.
China’s propaganda apparatus has seized on the weeks of violence, with state media churning out a deluge of damning articles, pictures and videos.
State media also ran images of military personnel and armoured personnel carriers across the border in Shenzhen, prompting the United States to warn Beijing against sending in troops.
Analysts say any intervention by Chinese security forces would be a reputational and economic disaster for China.
During smaller protest marches on Saturday — which ended without large-scale clashes — many protesters chanted “See you in Victoria Park!” as they left the streets.
The park has long been used as the staging point for the city’s previous democracy protests.
The latest rallies were sparked by opposition to a plan to allow extraditions to the mainland, but have since morphed into a wider call for democratic rights in the semi-autonomous city.
But many Hong Kongers feel those freedoms are being eroded, especially since China’s hardline president Xi Jinping came to power.
Historian Rana Mitter puts latest Hong Kong protests in context
In the last two months millions of people have hit the streets while clashes have broken out between police and small groups of hardcore protesters.
Battles between police firing tear gas and rubber bullets — and hardcore protesters using rocks, Molotov cocktails and slingshots — have since become routine in the city.
Both sides trade the blame for provoking the violence.
Beyond suspending the extradition bill, Beijing and city leader Carrie Lam have shown no desire to meet key demands such as an inquiry into police violence, the complete withdrawal of the bill and an amnesty.
Beijing has turned the screws on Hong Kong’s businesses, pressuring them to toe the line and condemn the protesters.
On Friday, Cathay Pacific announced the shock resignation of CEO Rupert Hogg after the carrier was excoriated by Beijing because some staff supported the pro-democracy protests.
A day later the “Big Four” accountancy firms scrambled to distance themselves from an advert placed in a newspaper purportedly by employees saying they supported the protests.
Trumpland’s simmering anger at George Conway finally erupts into a bitter public feud
George Conway, husband of senior Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, has been a known vocal critic of the Trump administration for a large portion of Donald Trump's presidency, and his anti-Trump Twitter rants were mostly ignored from within the White House. Now, his clear ideological conflict with his wife and her boss seems to finally be boiling over as a Trump official surprised observers by pushing back against his comments.
In a tweet this Wednesday, Trump's 2020 campaign manager took a shot at Conway for promoting an anti-Trump book.
Mitch McConnell may let Republicans write Senate impeachment rules without Democratic votes
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is plotting to shut out Democrats on impeachment if a bipartisan compromise on rules for the trial can't be reached.
The Kentucky Republican said this week that he hopes to reach an agreement on rules for the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, but he's also readying a "backup plan" in case he can't reach an agreement with Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, reported Vanity Fair.
“The first thing Sen. Schumer and I will do is see if there’s a possibility of agreement on a procedure,” McConnell said. “That failing, I would probably come back to my own members and say, ‘Okay, can 51 of us agree how we’re going to handle this?’”
Investigation uncovers Israel-based group behind bigoted Facebook smear campaign aimed at US Muslim congresswomen
"The goal of these anti-Muslim hate campaigns is clear—they put Muslim lives here and around the world at risk and undermine our country's commitment to religious pluralism."
Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, the first two Muslim-American women elected to Congress, have been the target of a sustained campaign of far right hate and lies originating from a shadowy Israeli group, according to an investigation published Thursday by The Guardian.