Hong Kong police chief calls for peace ahead of big protest march

Hong Kong police chief calls for peace ahead of big protest march

FILE PHOTO - Lunchtime protest at Chater Garden in Hong Kong
FILE PHOTO: Anti-government demonstrators gather for a lunchtime protest at Chater Garden in Hong Kong on, Dec 2, 2019. (Photo: REUTERS/Leah Millis)

HONG KONG: Hong Kong's police chief has urged citizens to demonstrate peacefully at what is expected to be a large-scale protest march on Sunday (Dec 8), an event planned amid a lull in violence in the city.

Police on Thursday gave a rare green light to the demonstration, organised by the Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF), the group that called the million-strong marches in the summer. 

Sunday's rally is a key gauge of the protest movement's support following a resounding victory in local district council elections by pro-democracy parties.

The march will follow a well-worn route on the main island from Victoria Park to the heart of the commercial district.

It comes a day before the city marks the six-month anniversary of the protest movement which has five demands, including an independent inquiry into the police, an amnesty for some 6,000 people arrested and fully free elections.

Hong Kong's government has offered few concessions after six months of protests, which have
Hong Kong's government has offered few concessions after six months of protests, which have turned increasingly violent. (Photo: AFP/ISAAC LAWRENCE)

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Speaking to reporters before departing for a "courtesy visit" to Beijing, newly installed police commissioner Chris Tang urged Hong Kongers to set a global example.

"We hope our citizens can show the whole world (that) Hong Kong people are capable of holding a large scale rally in an orderly and peaceful manner," he said. 

"We urge the organiser to assist the police on maintaining the order."

Tang was travelling to meet senior officials from the ministry of public security in Beijing and is expected to return to Hong Kong on Sunday.

Violence in Hong Kong has tested the sympathies of Chinese mainlanders, some of whom say protesters
Violence in Hong Kong has tested the sympathies of Chinese mainlanders, some of whom say protesters have gone too far in expressing their opinions. (Photo: AFP/Ye Aung Thu)

In a demonstration for the media, local police demonstrated the destructive force of homemade explosives seized during protests.

A watermelon was blown up and the front of a minivan shredded in a series of controlled explosions, footage captured by APTN showed.

Just 1g of the unstable explosive TATP, or tri-acetone tri-peroxide, could cause life-changing injuries, said senior bomb disposal officer Alick McWhirter.

He added that 99 per cent of protesters in Hong Kong are peaceful, but there is "a small hardcore who are dedicated towards violence".

Activists say anger is building once more after chief executive Carrie Lam and Beijing ruled out any further concessions despite the pro-establishment drubbing.

"We hope the government can cherish peace in the past few weeks and will not mistake the people as giving up on their demands," CHRF's Jimmy Sham told reporters on Friday.

"This is the last chance given by the people to Carrie Lam," he said, adding his group was calling on both protesters and police to refrain from violence.

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READ: Protests test sympathies of Chinese mainlanders in Hong Kong

The unrest in Hong Kong is the biggest popular challenge to Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012.

The former British colony has been wracked by six months of protests sparked by a now withdrawn China extradition Bill and which have broadened into calls for greater democratic freedoms.

Escalating violence last month saw a dramatic university siege that pitted protesters against the police.

FILE PHOTO: Protesters climb a stairway filled with a makeshift barricade of chairs and other debri
FILE PHOTO: Protesters climb a stairway filled with a makeshift barricade of chairs and other debris at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) in Hong Kong, China on Nov 18, 2019. (Photo: REUTERS/Adnan Abidi)

Despite the increasingly violent tactics adopted by some protesters, pro-democracy candidates achieved record gains in the Nov 24 local elections, winning almost 90 per cent of the seats after the highest ever voter turnout since local polls began in 1999.

Hong Kong has enjoyed a period of relative calm since, a state the new police chief said he hoped could be maintained.

"In the last two weeks the city was relatively peaceful," he noted. "When the citizens have a chance to take a breather, we hope the violent people will really stop engaging in illegal activities."

Later on Friday, protesters plan a smaller rally against police use of tear gas, which they say is excessive and harming innocent bystanders. The police have said its use of force has been restrained.

MORE: Our coverage of the Hong Kong protests

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Source: Reuters/ic

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