Protesters block roads after cops stop HK rally

Pro-democracy supporters march to insist their 5 demands are met by the government. (AP pic)

HONG KONG: Hong Kong protesters blocked downtown roads after police abruptly halted a mass rally following some clashes with demonstrators during a New Year’s Day march to pressure the Beijing-backed government.

Protesters began building road blocks in the busy areas of Wan Chai and Central, using materials such as a Mahjong table, umbrellas and bricks.

The sudden escalation came after thousands of people wearing black and holding up their hands – signalling the five demands they want leader Carrie Lam to meet – had marched peacefully across Hong Kong Island Wednesday afternoon holding signs and waving American, British and Hong Kong independence flags.

After the rally turned tense, the Civil Human Rights Front, which has organised some of the biggest protests to rock the Asian financial centre over the past six months, announced that police asked them to dismiss demonstrators.

Some protesters and political groups began leaving, while others continued marching to the central financial district.

Historic protests erupted in June in opposition to now-withdrawn legislation that would’ve allowed extraditions to mainland China and quickly morphed into a broader movement against Beijing’s rule.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, which include an independent inquiry into police violence and calls for direct leadership elections.