Hong Kong protesters keeping the heat on China into 2020

Protesters with an umbrella that says ‘Support freedom against evil law’ during a rally in Hong Kong. (AP pic)

HONG KONG: Hong Kong protesters looked to ring in the new year with a wave of fresh mass demonstrations, as they tried to show they could maintain pressure on the Beijing-backed government into 2020.

The Civil Human Rights Front – organiser of some of the biggest rallies to rock the Asian financial centre over the past six months – obtained police approval for a New Year’s Day march across Hong Kong Island.

On New Year’s Eve, when residents might normally watch fireworks fall over Victoria Harbour, supporters have been urged to gather at shopping centres and build a human chain around the former British colony.

The turnout could signal the staying power of a pro-democracy movement that has led to countless of violent clashes with police, pushed the economy into recession and forced the cancellation of numerous events, including the New Year’s fireworks show.

The city’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, said in a year-end video message that restoring social “order and harmony” should be the city’s resolution for 2020.

Historic protests erupted in June in opposition to now-withdrawn legislation that would’ve allowed extraditions to mainland China and quickly morphed into a broader movement against Beijing’s rule.

The Communist Party and its local appointees have so far refused to meet demonstrators’ demands including calls for direct leadership elections.

Restoring order and harmony in society should be a resolution for the new year, leader Lam said in a year-end video message.

“Let’s start 2020 with a new resolution: to restore order and harmony in society. So we begin again, together,” she said.

She vowed to “not shy away” from her responsibility and to “listen humbly to find a way out,” while upholding the “one country, two systems” framework that assures Hong Kong’s autonomy from Beijing.

“To allow Hong Kong to move forward steadily, we must handle the problems at hand and acknowledge the shortcomings in our system,” Lam said.

New Year’s Day March

People will gather at centrally located Victoria Park – the starting point for other mass marches thrown by CHRF – starting at 2pm and begin walking toward the city’s central financial and shopping areas around 3pm.

They plan to start early if the park’s central lawn is 85% full, or if crowds overflow in the Wan Chai and Admiralty areas, which have seen regular violence over the past six months.

“We continue to show our opposition to Carrie Lam and the police force for police brutality,” Eric Lai, vice convenor of CHRF, told a news conference Monday.

He said the protest’s other aims included solidarity with those detained in previous demonstrations.