ollowing a week of clashes with police and ugly incidents, some had wondered if Hong Kong’s anti-extradition protest movement was finally starting to lose momentum going into its 11th week. Instead, this weekend saw one of the largest pro-democracy demonstrations in the city’s history and absolutely no tear gas fired.
On Sunday afternoon, huge crowds filled Hong Kong’s Victoria Park before marching over to the Central business district as heavy rains came pouring down. The march was made in defiance of police, who had only given permission for a rally in the park. Marchers risked being charged with unlawful assembly, an offense that could lead to jail time.
Organizers estimate that around 1.7 million people turned up for the rally with many more unable to reach the site. That estimate makes this the movement’s largest single gathering since a June 16 march that was said to have brought out over 2 million people. Hong Kong’s population is put at 7.4 million.
Check out some scenes from the rally below:
Another massive anti-government rally in Hong Kong today, with protesters spilling out of Victoria Park and marching down the city's streets pic.twitter.com/qnGj80gNxm
— SCMP News (@SCMPNews) August 18, 2019
— Phoebe Kong 江穎怡 (@phoebe_kongwy) August 19, 2019
The protests of Hong Kong as seen from a skyscraper.#FreeHongKong
— Joshua Potash 🆘 (@JoshuaPotash) August 19, 2019
Last week, protesters issued apologies to travelers, paramedics, and journalists after a protest at the Hong Kong airport got out of hand with demonstrators blocking ambulance staff from reaching a man they had captured on suspicion of being a mainland cop.
They now appear to be back on their best behavior, making way for emergency vehicles during their march downtown.
I love Hong Kong. We deserve democracy and freedom. How can Beijing blame us as Rioters? pic.twitter.com/V1vz6lRvJz
— Joshua Wong 黃之鋒 (@joshuawongcf) August 19, 2019
Police made no attempt to block the march which ended without any serious clashes or a single tear gas canister fired in a refreshing change from the norm — which has become tear gas, petrol bombs, rubber bullets, bean bags, bricks, and thug attacks.
Protesters are sticking with their five demands, which include the complete withdrawal of the controversial extradition that started this whole thing, an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality, and the free election of city leaders.
However, the Hong Kong government has yet to give in on any point. Following the rally, the government called the demonstration “mostly peaceful” but accused protesters of “seriously affecting traffic” and causing inconvenience to the community, insisting that it would only begin a “sincere dialogue with the public, mend social rifts, and rebuild social harmony when everything has calmed down.”
The #HongKong government had said that it would not negotiate with violence. So we peaceniks stage yet another gigantic protest, but the government responds with this piece of petulant garbage. We now know who to blame if parts of the #antiELAB movement reverts to violence. pic.twitter.com/E83eo1iZEb
— Kevin Yam 任建峰 (@kevinkfyam) August 18, 2019