A peaceful march, which organisers say was attended by over 1.7 million Hongkongers on Sunday, has been criticised by the government as an inconvenience. The police also have said critics of the force were “unfair” in their allegations of brutality.
Marching under the rain, protesters kicked off the 11th consecutive week of protests, calling on Chief Executive Carrie Lam to respond to a litany of demands, including for the now-suspended extradition bill to be axed and for the unconditional release of all arrested protesters.
Police issued a statement on Monday saying that the march was “generally peaceful,” but there were breaches of the peace afterwards. The day ended with no head-to-head clashes between police and protesters and no crowd control weapons fired for the first time in weeks.
Protesters occupied roads and “paralysed the traffic” in the vicinity of Causeway Bay, Wan Chai, Admiralty, Central, Western District and Tin Hau, according to police. Some shot hard objects at the government headquarters with slingshots and directed laser pointers at officers.
Responding to accusations of excessive use of force, police said that officers have exercised “restraint, tolerance and patience.”
“Only when there were violent acts or illegal behaviours which endangered the safety of people at the scene, [officers] would stop them by proportionate use of force to prevent the incidents from heating up and worsening,” the statement read.
“Protestors neglected their violent acts and the provocation at the police but criticised police’s use of force was reversing the causality and was unfair to police.”
Large crowds of protesters remained on Harcourt Road outside the government headquarters in Admiralty on Sunday night, but all of them dispersed before 1am.
Accusations of police brutality have surfaced in the wake of incidents on August 11, when officers fired crowd control weapons in MTR stations and a woman was allegedly shot in the eye with a beanbag round.
Late on Sunday evening, the government also issued a second response to the march, saying that it “seriously affected traffic and caused much inconvenience to the community.”
However, the statement stopped short of condemnation, instead emphasising the need for social order.
“The spokesman reiterated that it was most important to restore social order as soon as possible. The government will begin [a] sincere dialogue with the public, mend social rifts and rebuild social harmony when everything has calmed down.”
‘The people have spoken’
Pro-democracy parties said on Monday that the march was an indication of how the public were still outraged by Lam’s administration.
Lawmaker Fernando Cheung said that Lam has a rare window of opportunity to respond: “The people have spoken and spoken very loud and clearly. The five demands are on the table, and written on the Lennon Wall.”
“It is not as if the demands of the people are unclear. It is the non-response, or the response with violence and police brutality, that has caused so much disturbance in the past weeks in Hong Kong,” Cheung added.
Man-Kei Tam, Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong said that Hongkongers have “once again demonstrated their resolve” by taking part in the peaceful march.
“We saw how failure in political leadership inflamed tensions between protesters and the police in the past few months,” Tam said. “The Hong Kong government must immediately withdraw the extradition law amendments, ensure the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and allow an independent investigation into the use of force by Hong Kong police against protesters.”
Meanwhile, one of Hong Kong’s property tycoons Gordon Wu published a full-page ad in local newspapers, expressing support for police and Chinese sovereignty.
The ad’s message was divided into three sections: “Hong Kong is a part of China,” “One Country, Two Systems and the rule of law are fundamental to Hong Kong” and “Those who execute the rule of law.”
“With utmost seriousness, I say no to the independence activists and rioters. I express my admiration to those who safeguard the rule of law, especially the Hong Kong police force,” Wu wrote.
Wu, who signed the ad as a “third-generation Hongkonger,” is the chairperson of Hopewell Holdings and an advocate of large infrastructure projects such as the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao bridge.
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