Hong Kong protests: Tens of thousands gather for major rally

Protesters march to demand democracy and political reforms in Hong Kong, 18 AugustImage copyright

Image caption

Protesters have been marching in heavy rain

Tens of thousands of people are holding another day of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, amid increasingly severe warnings by the Beijing authorities.

A march on Saturday was peaceful, but demonstrators and police have clashed frequently over the past 10 weeks.

The protests were sparked by an extradition bill, which has since been suspended by the Hong Kong government.

China, which has built up security forces in nearby Shenzhen, has likened the protests to terrorist activity.

The protest organisers, the Civil Rights Human Front, were denied authorisation for a march through the city, but police have allowed Sunday’s demonstration in Victoria Park.

The South China Morning Post newspaper tweeted a time lapse photo of the park filling up.

Large crowds also gathered in the nearby areas of Admiralty, Causeway Bay and Wan Chai. The Civil Rights Human Front has called for the protest to be peaceful.

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Media captionHow Hong Kong got trapped in a cycle of violence

How have recent protests unfolded?

The violence has intensified in the past few weeks, with police frequently firing tear gas and rubber bullets.

Last weekend activists occupied the airport, leading to hundreds of flights being cancelled. There were further clashes with police on Tuesday.

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Media captionThe BBC’s Stephen McDonell observes the new quick-moving tactics of the Hong Kong police against protesters.

The turmoil has plunged one of Asia’s leading financial centres into crisis. Many businesses remained closed on Sunday, amid fears of further violence.

What is Beijing saying?

The Chinese government hardened its rhetoric following the latest unrest, condemning it as “behaviour that is close to terrorism”.

It was the second time in a week that Chinese officials have publicly likened the protests to terrorist activity.

Some observers believe that the repeated use of such language suggests that China is losing patience with the protesters and signals that an intervention by Beijing is increasingly likely.

What is the movement about?

It was sparked by a bill that would allow extradition from Hong Kong the Chinese mainland.

Critics argue that the proposal would undermine the territory’s judicial independence and could be used to target those who speak out against the Chinese government.

The former British colony has a special status, with its own legal system and judiciary, and rights and freedoms not seen in mainland China.

The bill – announced by the government in in February – was suspended following mass rallies in June. But the protesters want it withdrawn altogether.

They are also demanding democratic reform and an investigation into alleged police brutality.

Quick guide to HK protests

  • The Hong Kong protesters are mostly young people worried about their future. Their demands have now expanded to include genuine universal suffrage and an inquiry into police behaviour
  • The protests started off peaceful but as the weeks have worn on the violence has escalated. The alleged involvement of gangs and undercover cops has led to fear, mistrust and suspicion
  • Hong Kong’s “special freedoms” are set to expire in 2047, and many in Hong Kong don’t want to become “another Chinese city”
  • Military equipment and people have been seen gathering on the mainland, near the border with Hong Kong, but experts say it is very unlikely China will intervene militarily to quell the protests

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