HONG KONG – Tens of thousands of protesters of all ages returned to the streets of Hong Kong island Sunday afternoon despite a police ban on an anti-government march.
Sunday marks the fourth time police banned a march by Civil Human Rights Front, a broad-based democracy umbrella group whose events have regularly drawn hundreds of thousands.
Protesters made demands from leader Carrie Lam as they marched from the Causeway Bay shopping district past the government complex to the Central district.
The three-kilometre stretch of Sunday’s march has been the site of dozens of demonstrations since the protest movement began in early June. While the march was largely peaceful, by the early evening a small group of protesters had begun to deface a subway station near government offices.
Last week Lam made a major concession to protesters, offering to withdraw a legislative bill that ignited the protest movement three months ago, but she has failed to meet any other demands including electoral reform and independent inquiry into police violence.
The legislative bill would have allowed for residents to be extradited to mainland China, stoking fears across the former British colony was losing its autonomy from China, promised until 2047 under the “one country, two systems” agreement with Britain.
Protester Wolf Shek, a designer, said he did not believe Beijing would allow Lam to appease protesters any further – or risk showing they were susceptible to popular demands – but said he would still continue to attend demonstrations.
“This is my responsibility as a Hong Kong person to fight for freedom,” said protester Shek as he walked with crowds of chanting protesters. “I am not a front-line protester but in my position, I want to do anything I can do to save our city.”
Protesters like Shek say they will continue to demonstrate until all of their demands are met with a common chant now “five demands, not one less.”
“Personally I don’t think Lam will make any promises with the pressure from [Beijing] but they just can’t stop people from coming out no matter how many of them or how few of us,” said one protester, who asked to not be named but said she worked in the banking sector.
She said protesting was the “basic right of every citizen” and Hong Kongers would continue even with police bans in place.
A separate religious procession was called for Sunday afternoon but the majority of protesters appeared to have attended the ad hoc march from Causeway Bay, which was called for on social media apps like telegram and protest forum LIHKG.
While most protesters on Sunday wore simple face masks or none at all, a small number of protesters appeared prepared for clashes with police and came prepared with gas masks, hiking poles, and goggles.
One group of young front-line protesters, two of whom were aged 12, said they were attending protests despite the fact that their parents were unaware of their activities.
They said they were doing what they could to “save Hong Kong.”