Thousands rally at Chater Garden in Hong Kong, call on UK and US to take action

Thousands rally at Chater Garden in Hong Kong, call on UK and US to take action

chater garden rally august 16 hong kong
Thousands of people gathered at Chater Garden in Hong Kong on Friday night (Aug 16), in the latest mass demonstration in the city. (Photo: Afifah Ariffin)

HONG KONG: Thousands of people gathered at Chater Garden in Hong Kong on Friday night (Aug 16), in the latest mass demonstration in the city.

Organised by several Hong Kong student unions, the "Stand with Hong Kong - Power to the People Rally" called for action from foreign governments.

Among the protesters' demands is a call for the United Kingdom to declare that China has breached the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration.

The treaty laid a blueprint over how Hong Kong would be ruled after its return to China from Britain in 1997.

READ: Our coverage of the Hong Kong protests

China has said it considers the declaration a historical document that no longer has practical significance, while the UK said it is a legally valid treaty to which it is committed to upholding.

READ: China tells Britain to stop 'gesticulating' about Hong Kong

Protesters also called on the United States and the UK to enact sanctions on those "responsible for/complicit in the suppression of rights and freedoms in Hong Kong".

Hong Kong Chater Garden protest 2
Protesters attend a rally in Hong Kong on Aug 16, 2019. (Photo: AFP / Manan VATSYAYANA)

Millions of people have taken to Hong Kong's streets over the past few months, with increasingly violent clashes breaking out between police and groups of protesters.

The protests began as opposition to a now-suspended Bill that would have allowed suspects to be extradited to mainland China. They have swelled since, and demands have broadened.

READ: Hong Kong airport on heightened security as city braces for more protests

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

Protests at Hong Kong's airport forced the cancellation of nearly 1,000 flights this week, escalating from peaceful sit-ins to scenes of chaos and violence.

On Tuesday, protesters physically stopped travellers from boarding and assaulted two men they accused of being infiltrators.

Friday night's protest was peaceful as demonstrators, ranging from bankers to a retired nurse, held up posters reading "Power to the People", while police looked on.

Further protests are planned for this weekend, including what could be a large gathering on Sunday that could test whether a movement that has enjoyed broad support can retain it, even as violence escalates.

A rally set for Sunday by the Civil Human Rights Front, which organised million-strong marches in June, has only been allowed permission for an assembly in Victoria Park on Hong Kong island, though not a march, due to safety concerns.

The group is appealing against the police decision.

Protesters gather at Hong Kong's Chater Garden
Protesters attend a rally in Hong Kong on Aug 16, 2019. (Photo: AFP / Manan VATSYAYANA)

Another march planned in Kowloon's Hung Hom district on Saturday has also been banned.

Ten weeks of confrontations between police and protesters have plunged Hong Kong into turmoil, and present the biggest popular challenge to Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012.

Police tactics against protesters have been hardening.

READ: Bruised but unbowed Hong Kong police say no need for China intervention

"Any person who endangers the safe operation of the aerodrome or the safety of persons in the aerodrome by act of violence is liable to life imprisonment," Acting Chief Superintendent Man-pun Yeung told reporters on Friday.

Nearly 750 people have been arrested since the protests began in June, and tear gas has frequently been used by police in attempts to disperse protests across the city.

READ: Hong Kong on brink of recession as trade war, political protests escalate

China has likened the increasingly violent protests to terrorism and warned it could use force to quell them, as U.S. President Donald Trump urged Xi meet protesters to defuse the tension.

Chinese paramilitary troops have been training this week in Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong, in a clear warning to the protesters. Hong Kong police reiterated on Friday that they are capable of maintaining law and order on their own.

Source: CNA/agencies/nc

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