Hong Kong braces for mass anti-government rally

Agency, 18 August : Hong Kong braced for a major anti-government rally planned for Sunday after an unusually calm Saturday night in what has been a summer of violent protests in the Asian financial hub.

Demonstrations have lost some intensity since the ugly scenes witnessed during the protesters’ occupation of the city’s airport earlier in the past week, and Sunday’s rally could show whether the movement still has broad-based support.

No tear gas was fired on Saturday night during a brief standoff between police and protesters outside a police station in the Mong Kok district – which was noteworthy after the increasingly violent confrontations in the last 11 weeks. Police said they fired one beanbag round.

Some protesters said on Saturday that they were saving their energy for Sunday, when the pro-democracy Civil Human Rights Front, which organized million-strong peaceful marches in June, has scheduled a rally in Victoria Park, in the bustling shopping district of Causeway Bay on Hong Kong island.

Anger over a now-suspended bill that would allow criminal suspects in Hong Kong to be extradited to mainland China erupted in June, but the rising unrest is fueled by broader concerns about the erosion of freedoms guaranteed under the “one country, two systems” formula put in place after Hong Kong’s return from British to Chinese rule in 1997.

Demands include democratic reforms as well as the resignation of the city’s Beijing-backed leader, Carrie Lam.

The protests present one of the biggest challenges facing Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012. And with the ruling Communist Party preparing to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic on Oct 1, the crisis in Hong Kong has come at a sensitive time.


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