Thousands to turn out for anti-government march in HK

Protesters occupy a main road outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong. (AFP pic)

HONG KONG: Thousands of Hong Kong protesters are expected to gather on Sunday for another large-scale march through the city centre, the sixth straight week of anti-government rallies that have put increasing pressure on the territory’s administration.

The march, initially planned to start at Victoria Park in Causeway Bay and end at the city’s Court of Final Appeal in Central, will now finish in Wanchai, after an Appeal Board on Public Meetings and Processions’ ruling Saturday that cited potential difficulties in crowd control with the original, longer route.

Organiser Civil Human Rights Front’s previous rallies have drawn hundreds of thousands of people on to the streets in support of a widening list of demands, from the withdrawal of legislation that would allow extraditions to China and first triggered the movement to the resignation of Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who is backed by Beijing.

Lam will not resign and will not make any further concessions to the protesters, Bernard Chan, the convener of the city’s Executive Council, said in an interview with the New York Times on Friday.

The chief executive will consult with different sectors of the Hong Kong population and will concentrate on drafting a broad policy address for mid-October, the report cited Chan as saying.

Organisers said Sunday’s gathering would focus on the establishment of an independent probe into what they call excessive use of force by police in dispersing previous protests.

The march comes a week after attempts to clear a march in the New Territories area of Sha Tin, near the Chinese border, devolved into dramatic clashes between demonstrators and riot police inside a shopping mall – keeping the heat on Lam.

Officers arrested more than 40 people.

“My fear is there will be an escalation of violence,” said opposition lawmaker Alvin Yeung, who was at the New Town Center in Sha Tin when the scuffles erupted. “It seems like everyone knows if this continues, somebody must die – either a protester or a police officer. And then what?”

On Saturday, three men, between the ages of 25 and 27, were arrested in connection with the seizure of explosives, firebombs and other weapons in an industrial building in the Tsuen Wan district, according to a police statement.

Officers found 1 kilogramme of triacetone triperoxide at the scene, a police spokeswoman said.

The Hong Kong National Front, a pro-independence group, said on its Facebook page Saturday that one of its members was arrested at the building.

Crowds of protesters have turned out regularly in the former British colony since mid-June.

In recent weeks their ire has focused on China, which continues to back Lam publicly despite a Financial Times report that said she had offered to resign but was told to remain and resolve the city’s chaos.

Lam earlier this month declared that the extradition bill was “dead,” but did not officially withdraw it, leaving open the potential for the government to revive it with 12 days’ notice and providing new momentum for protesters.

On Saturday, thousands of government supporters rallied in the city centre in support of the police, with organisers estimating 316,000 turned out and police putting the figure at 103,000, the South China Morning Post reported.