Tens of thousands flocked to Victoria Park on Sunday under torrential rain in another mass pro-democracy protest against the government and alleged police violence.
Protesters of all ages – many clad in black, the colour of the anti-extradition law movement – spilt out of the nearby MTR stations.
The metro system implemented crowd control measures, with delays of around 15 to 30 minutes on the Tsuen Wan Line and Island Line.
Crowds chanted “free Hong Kong, democracy now” and “fill up Victoria Park.”
Earlier this week, police issued a letter of no objection for a static demonstration in Victoria Park between 10am to 11pm, but objected to the original plan to march to Chater Road in Central: “The possible gathering of dissidents due to the nature of the event, and which may lead to breach of peace or other unlawful activities,” the police notice read.
Organisers, the Civil Human Rights Front, appealed saying: “We are very unhappy with this decision and believe it will endanger a large number of people set to participate.”
But the appeals board ruled against them. In response, the Front said that – when the park is full – protesters will be guided out towards Causeway Bay MTR station. If the station becomes blocked, crowds would be ushered to leave via Wan Chai, Admiralty and Central stations – a move that would result in a de facto march.
At around 2.30pm, organisers announced that crowds had filled up all six football pitches in the park. Shortly afterwards, thousands of demonstrators began marching through Causeway Bay and Wan Chai as heavy rain began to fall.
Local broadcaster NowTV reported that two police water cannon vehicles have left their base in Fanling to stand by on Hong Kong Island on Sunday.
Ann Lau, a senior lecturer at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in her 40s, told HKFP she believed that the government and chief executive had no interest in opening up a dialogue with protesters in order to resolve the current political crisis: “Carrie Lam said she wants to respond to citizens but she hasn’t even opened up a channel to talk with the public,” she said. “I don’t think the government has any interest in talking to the public.”
Lau added that nowadays there are fewer ways for the public to legally voice their discontent: “The police try to refuse all protest applications. We kind of feel like even if we want to voice our opinions peacefully, they don’t even give us a chance to do so. They are forcing us to go to the street so that they can call it illegal,” she said. “Well, what do you want us to do? We have no choice.”
A woman who was shot at with a suspected bean bag round last Sunday may lose her sight in her right eye. Her injury prompted a chorus of criticism from anti-government protesters who blasted the police for alleged excessive use of force.
Mina Ma, a 40-year-old administrative worker, told HKFP she decided to attend Sunday’s rally to protest a range of political issues but mainly in response to the woman who was shot in the eye.
“This incident — I was really very angry and upset,” she said. “I could not just sit at home after I heard about this.”
Ma added that she thought the police would not conduct a clearance operation on Sunday, despite prohibiting the original plan to march to Central: “I believe all Hongkongers are peaceful and I still believe the government and police will not disrupt a peaceful gather. I hope so,” she said.
Former lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan told HKFP that crowds were only able to leave the park by marching towards Central in accordance with the police’s restrictions.
“The police are forcing people to go out [like this] because the park is not suitable to accommodate so many people,” he said. “When we leave, we are not breaching the police requirements because the police told us we have to leave, so we are cooperating with them.”
As the city nears its eleventh consecutive week of protest, sparked by the government’s now-suspended extradition bill, groups have taken up increasingly creative methods to organise hit-and-run demonstrations and impromptu road occupations.
Over the weekend, protesters adopted a new communications tactic to avoid being “infiltrated” or targeted with cyber abuse from so-called internet trolls — writing in romanised Cantonese. The practice uses the Latin alphabet to phonetically transcribe characters, confusing machine translation services and even those fluent in Mandarin Chinese.
Beijing has ramped up its rhetoric on Hong Kong’s protests with officials repeatedly blaming the unrest on “violent radicals” and “foreign forces.” Yang Guang, spokesman for the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, last Monday described the movement as displaying signs of “terrorism.”
Meanwhile, state media the People’s Daily and the Global Times has published a slew of videos depicting military drills and armoured vehicles driving to Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong.
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