Hong Kong braces for weekend of fresh anti-government protests

FAN Editor
Anti-government protesters sit during a demonstration in Tiu Keng Leng in Hong Kong
Anti-government protesters sit during a demonstration in Tiu Keng Leng in Hong Kong, China October 17, 2019. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

October 18, 2019

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong is preparing for a weekend of demonstrations, including a human chain at major subway lines on Friday and a democracy march on Sunday, the latest moves in more than four months of anti-government protests.

It has been two weeks since Carrie Lam, leader of the Chinese-ruled city, invoked emergency laws for the first time in half a century to ban face masks, hoping to quell protests. Instead, the city has been shaken by some of the most intense unrest to date.

Although the last few days have been relatively calm, with protesters staying off the streets, prominent human rights activist Jimmy Sham was brutally attacked on Wednesday, a move pro-democracy lawmakers said was meant to intimidate protesters and incite violence.

Hundreds of people are expected to join hands outside metro stations in the city on Friday night, including in the central business district, prime shopping centers, the Kowloon peninsula and rural New Territories.

The Civil Human Rights Front, which Sham leads, is one of the biggest pro-democracy groups in the former British colony and organized million-strong marches in June. The group has called for a march on Sunday in Kowloon, but police on Friday said the event would not be permitted.

Protesters have ignored such objections in the past and marched anyway.

Previous large marches have seen families and children rally alongside pro-democracy activists over concerns Beijing is tightening its grip on the city in violation of the “one country, two systems” formula, which permits the city freedoms not available on the mainland such as an independent judiciary.

Beijing has rejected claims it is undermining rights in Hong Kong, and has accused foreign countries of fomenting trouble.

During her policy address this week, Lam did not address any of the protesters’ demands.

Instead, she announced measures to ease Hong Kong’s acute housing shortage – an issue that has partly fueled anger for the protests because of the city’s exorbitant property prices.

Protesters largely brushed off her address, saying they would not give up until all of their demands were met.

Last month, Lam withdrew the controversial extradition bill that kicked off the protests amid concerns it would expose Hong Kongers to the Chinese justice system.

The bill’s withdrawal was one of the protesters’ key requests, but they say four others – an independent inquiry into police behavior, a waiver for all people charged in the protests, removing the characterization of the protests as “riots” and universal suffrage – must be addressed.

Many protesters have also called for Lam’s resignation.

(Reporting by Donny Kwok; Writing by Farah Master)

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