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Hong Kong protesters throng streets peacefully in pouring rain

Hong Kong protesters throng streets peacefully in pouring rain

Reuters
HONG KONG
Hundreds of thousands of anti-government protesters rallied peacefully in Hong Kong on Sunday, filling major thoroughfares under torrential downpours in the eleventh week of what have been often violent demonstrations in the Asian financial hub.
Sunday’s turnout showed that the movement still has broad-based support despite the ugly scenes witnessed in recent days when protesters occupied the Chinese-ruled city’s airport, a move for which some activists apologised. It was the calmest weekend protest since the latest demonstrations against perceived creeping Beijing influence in the former British colony began.
“They’ve been telling everyone we’re rioters. The march today is to show everyone we are not,” said a 23-year-old named Chris, who works in marketing and was dressed all in black, including a scarf covering his face and baseball cap.
“It does not mean we won’t keep fighting. We will do whatever is necessary to win, but today we take a break, then we reassess.” One protester shouted at others who were jeering at police, “Today is a peaceful march! Don’t fall into the trap! The world is watching us,” prompting the group to move on.
Late in the evening, some demonstrators were urging others to go home and rest.
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 unrest has been fuelled by broader worries about the erosion of freedoms guaranteed under the “one country, two systems” formula put in place after Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule in 1997, including an independent judiciary and right to protest.
The protests present one of the biggest challenges for Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012, with the ruling Communist Party preparing to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic on Oct. 1.
Protesters held aloft placards with slogans including “Free Hong Kong!” and “Democracy now!” and umbrellas to shield them from the sometimes heavy rain. Some aimed green lasers at police and government buildings. The crowd in Causeway Bay’s leafy Victoria Park, where the rally started, included elderly people and young families, with some parents carrying toddlers.
Despite rally organisers not having permission to march, the park could not accommodate the crowd, which thronged nearby streets. Many protesters headed towards the city’s financial centre, chanting for the city’s Beijing-backed leader, Carrie Lam, to step down.

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