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TENS of thousands of anti-China protesters thronged Hong Kong today, turning the city centre into a sea of umbrellas due to heavy rain.
The massive rally came a day after a similarly huge pro-Chinese demonstration in the city’s Tamar Park on Saturday, showing the special autonomous region of China, a British colony from 1842 to 1997, has become deeply polarised after months of protests against a much disputed extradition Bill.
Yesterday’s march organiser Bonnie Leung called on all demonstrators to remain peaceful. Previous marches have seen assaults on police, with protesters hurling bricks and caustic soda at officers who have hit back with baton charges and tear gas. On July 1, a group storm the legislative council chamber, smashing the glass doors and defacing the walls before raising the colonial-era flag featuring the Union Jack.
“We hope there will not be any chaotic situations today,” Ms Leung said. “We hope we can show the world that Hong Kong people can be totally peaceful.”
Though the extradition Bill that began the protests has since been suspended, demonstrators are demanding a promise that it will never go ahead, the resignation of the territory’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam and “full democracy.” Ruled autocratically by a Britain-appointed governor before 1997, since then Hong Kong has been governed by a legislative council, half of whose members are directly elected and the other half elected by “functional constituencies” representing sectoral interests (such as “medical,” “teaching,” “commercial,” “industrial” and more).
Saturday’s equally sodden demonstration claimed an attendance of 470,000 with demonstrators waving banners reading “Stop riots,” “Oppose violence” and “Save Hong Kong.” Those attending waved Chinese and Hong Kong flags and sang the Chinese national anthem and listened to speakers attack “the wanton destruction of public property” and “obstruction of public transport.”
Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers chair Wong Kam-leung said he hoped people would “stop and think twice” before engaging in violent and illegal acts. Tensions are running high, with China drilling armed police in Shenzhen, the mainland city bordering Hong Kong. Authorities in Hong Kong insist they do not need assistance in maintaining order.
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