Hong Kong, 8 December 2019 (dpa/MIA) – Thousands of demonstrators filled the streets of Hong Kong Island on Sunday for a Human Rights Day march, the first major anti-government protest to be sanctioned by police in months.
Black-clad demonstrators of all ages assembled to call attention to the unmet demands of the Hong Kong protests that have rocked the city for several months.
The march coincides with the six-month mark since over 1 million people first took to the streets to protest a now-defunct extradition bill that would have allowed Hong Kong citizens to be extradited to Mainland China.
It is the first major demonstration since the pro-democracy camp won a landslide victory in district council elections at the end of last month. The organizers, Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF), said they expect a “mass turnout” in the wake of the elections.
A masked protester name Brian Lai attributed the jubilant mood at the march to the elections, calling the outcome “a step towards democratic progress and a big cheer for protesters.”
However, a female protester named Chan said that she did not feel optimistic as a result of the elections because there had been “no structural change within the government.”
Chan said that legislation like the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act that was recently passed by the United States is the only way to push for real change.
“We do not have the authority to push them to listen to what we want, but … other countries can definitely impact Beijing or the presidency’s actions,” she said.
Earlier in the day, Hong Kong police arrested 11 people for “possession of a firearm without a licence.” It was the first time police had alleged that an illegal firearm was confiscated for intended use in a protest.
The police said on their Facebook page that they “received information which suggested that someone who had participated in an unlawful assembly before is planning to attack the police with weapons today.”
A Glock pistol and more than 100 bullets were seized during the operation. Organized crime and triad senior superintendent Li Kwai-wah said that two bulletproof vests, daggers, sabres, batons and pepper spray were also found.
At a press conference Friday, Hong Kong Police senior superintendent Ng Lok-chun warned that though the march has been approved by the police, it would be stopped if any violence occurred.
The former British colony has been governed semi-autonomously since its return to China in 1997 on the principle of “one country, two systems.”
It enjoys much greater freedoms than mainland China, but Hong Kong residents feel these are increasingly being eroded by the Communist government in Beijing.