HONG KONG: Hundreds of pro-Beijing supporters flooded into a Hong Kong shopping mall on Friday (Sep 13) to counter months of anti-government protests in the city.
Singing the Chinese national anthem and waving Chinese flags, the group of mostly older supporters chanted "China, add oil" as they were confronted by anti-Beijing demonstrators inside the Olympian City 2 shopping mall in Hong Kong’s Tai Kok Tsui district.
"I want to show my devotion and my loyalty to my country, my mother country," said one pro-Beijing supporter.
Another supporter said she hopes the Hong Kong protests will end soon, adding that "the victims are the Hong Kong people".
Friday's gathering was in response to a defiant protest anthem penned by an anonymous composer which has become the unofficial new soundtrack to Hong Kong's anti-government protests, belted out by crowds at flash mobs in malls, on the streets and in the football stands.
The demonstrations started in June in response to a Bill that would have allowed people to be sent to mainland China for trial, but have broadened into calls for greater democracy.
The former British colony returned to China in 1997 under a "one country, two systems" formula that guarantees freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland - including a much-cherished independent legal system - but protesters accuse Beijing of increasing interference in Hong Kong’s affairs.
"We think that Hong Kong's freedom are ruined by the China government," said Caddy Cha, an anti-Beijing protester at the mall on Friday.
“I think that our protests will keep continue if the Hong Kong government doesn't fulfil our five demands. I want to stress that the five demands is very important to us, to the Hong Kong citizen."
One demand was the withdrawal of the extradition Bill, to which Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has agreed. The four others are: Retraction of the word "riot" to describe the protests, release of all arrested demonstrators, an independent inquiry into perceived police brutality and the right for Hong Kong people to choose their own leaders.
The lunchtime face-off at the mall came hours before anti-government activists took to the hills on Friday evening to form flashlight-carrying human chains, using the Mid-Autumn Festival as a backdrop for the latest in more than three months of demonstrations that have sometimes flared into violence.
The peaceful protests, on a day when families traditionally gather to gaze at the moon and eat mooncakes while children swing colourful lanterns from the end of sticks, came after Lam promised to focus on housing and jobs to try to end the unrest.
Besides the now-withdrawn extradition Bill and concerns that Beijing is eroding civil liberties, many young protesters are also angry at sky-high living costs and a lack of job prospects.
Sit-ins at shopping malls are also planned over the weekend.
Activists also plan to gather outside the British consulate on Sunday to demand that China honours the Sino-British Joint Declaration that was signed in 1984, laying out Hong Kong's post-1997 future.
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