Hong Kong protesters regroup in the rain after Saturday's clashes

Hong Kong protesters regroup in the rain after Saturday's clashes

Hong Kong protesters Aug 25, 2019 - 1
Protesters march in Hong Kong on Aug 25, 2019. (Photo: Leong Wai Kit)

HONG KONG: Thousands of Hong Kong anti-government protesters marched in pouring rain on Sunday (Aug 25), regrouping after sometimes violent demonstrations a day earlier that prompted police to fire tear gas for the first time in more than a week. 

Rail operator MTR Corp suspended some services to try to prevent people gathering but protesters made it to a sports stadium in the vast container port of Kwai Chung, where they marched around the running track and took shelter in the stands.

M Sung, a 53-year-old software engineer in a black mask who is emblematic of the many older, middle-class citizens at the march, said he had been at almost every protest and would keep coming.

READ: Our coverage of the Hong Kong protests

"We know this is the last chance to fight for 'one country, two systems', otherwise the Chinese Communist Party will penetrate our home city and control everything," he said.

"If we keep a strong mind, we can sustain this movement for justice and democracy. It won’t die," Sung said.

Hong Kong protesters Aug 25, 2019 - 4
Protesters gathered at a sports stadium in Kwai Chung on Aug 25, 2019. (Photo: Afifah Ariffin)

Protesters say they are fighting the erosion of the "one country, two systems" arrangement under which the former British colony returned to China in 1997 with the promise of continued freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland.

"It’s very unreasonable that the MTR suspended the service. I am also mad that the police use excessive force against the protesters," said Jo Chan, 30. "Hong Kong people should not beat each other. I come because I support the five demands."

A second rally of a few hundred, some of them relatives of police, was also held on Sunday afternoon.

One relative, who said she was the wife of an officer, said they had received enough criticism. "I believe within these two months, police have got enough opprobrium."

"I really want you to know even if the whole world spits on you, we as family members will not," she said, giving her surname only as Si.

"Remember, your job is to serve Hong Kong residents, not be the enemies of Hong Kong."

The protests, which started over a now-suspended extradition Bill and evolved into demands for greater democracy, have rocked Hong Kong for three months and plunged the city into its biggest political crisis since its handover from British to Chinese rule in 1997.

The five demands are - withdraw the extradition Bill, set up an independent inquiry into the protests and perceived police brutality, stop describing the protests as "rioting", waive charges against those arrested and resume political reform.

The wider calls for democracy pose a direct challenge for Communist Party leaders in Beijing, who are eager to quell the protests ahead of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on Oct 1.

Beijing has sent a clear warning that forceful intervention is possible, with paramilitary forces holding drills just over the border.

Activists threw petrol bombs and bricks on Saturday in the gritty industrial district of Kwun Tong, on the east of the Kowloon peninsula.

Police used tear gas after some protesters threw Molotov cocktails and bricks and others tore up "smart" lamp posts equipped with surveillance cameras. Other demonstrators had set up roadblocks with bamboo scaffolding.

It was the first use of tear gas in more than a week after a series of mostly peaceful demonstrations in the former British colony.

READ: 'Too scared to buy ice cream for my son': Hong Kong protests leave some residents looking for an exit

Transport to the airport appeared normal on Sunday, despite protesters' plans for a day-long "stress test" of transport in the international aviation and financial hub.

Police said in a statement on Sunday they strongly condemned protesters "breaching public peace" and that 19 men and 10 women had been arrested. More than 700 have been arrested since the demonstrations began in June.

Riot police officers run as they chase demonstrators during clashes at Kowloon Bay in Hong Kong
Riot police officers run as they chase demonstrators during clashes at Kowloon Bay in Hong Kong, China, August 24, 2019. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan

The neighbouring gambling territory of Macau, a former Portuguese colony that returned to Chinese rule in 1999, elected former legislature head Ho Iat Seng as its leader on Sunday - the sole approved candidate.

Ho, who has deep ties to China, is expected to cement Beijing's control over the "special administrative region", the same status given to Hong Kong, and distance it from the unrest there.

Source: Agencies/mn/nc