HONG KONG–Thousands of Hong Kong protesters rallied at the harbor side on Sept. 27, chanting slogans accusing the police of brutality and setting the stage for a weekend of demonstrations leading up to the 70th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) takeover of China on Wednesday, Oct. 1.
The downtown rally was one of a series of protests that have united activists denouncing communist rule, calling for democracy and even for independence from the CCP, often resulting in violent clashes with police in the former British colony.
Police attacked protestors with teargas, water cannon, rubber bullets and occasional live rounds fired into the air.
Activists have defended themselves for over more than three months with petrol bombs, rocks and lasers, outraged by social media footage of random beatings and police brutality, especially one night against protesters cowering on the floor of a subway train.
The protesters gathered at a park on reclaimed land in front of central government offices on Friday night calling for an investigation into the remote San Uk Ling camp near the Chinese border where they say detained protesters were tortured, a claim police deny.
“It’s obvious that there’s a problem of police brutality,” said 19-year-old university student Peter Sin. “They now arrest people randomly and there’s much inhumane treatment during prosecution and detention.”
Police said the camp was no longer being used to hold protesters.
One officer told reporters last week that some officers had overstepped the line when dealing with protesters.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, in the first “open dialogue” session with the people on Thursday, said she would not accede to protesters’ demands for an independent inquiry into police action. She did not explain why.
Protests on Republic’s Anniversary
This weekend, the Asian financial hub marks the fifth anniversary of the start of the “Umbrella” protests, a series of student-led pro-democracy demonstrations in 2014 that failed to wrest concessions from the CCP.
One of the most prominent leaders of those protests, the bespectacled Joshua Wong, then just 17, is expected to announce on Saturday that he will run for local district council elections in November, his supporters said.
He is on bail after being charged with inciting and participating in an unauthorized assembly outside police headquarters on June 21.
Thousands of people are expected to rally in the city center on Saturday evening. Protests are also expected on Sunday to mark Global Anti-Totalitarianism Day, with solidarity events planned in cities across the world, including Paris, Berlin, Taipei, New York, Kiev and London.
But the biggest protests are likely to be on Oct. 1, marking the anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) takeover of China on Wednesday, Oct. 1., with protesters saying they plan to use the holiday to propel calls for greater democracy.
Activists plan a mass rally from Victoria Park in the bustling Causeway Bay district to Chater Garden near government headquarters.
Official festivities for National Day have been scaled back, with authorities keen to avoid embarrassing Beijing at a time when Chinese leader Xi Jinping is seeking to project an image of national strength and unity.
The protests were sparked in June by a bill, since withdrawn, that would have allowed extradition of suspected criminals to mainland China but have since expanded into a broader pro-democracy movement.
Protesters are angry about what they see as creeping CCP interference in Hong Kong, which returned to China in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” formula intended to guarantee freedoms that are not enjoyed on the mainland.
By Jessie Pang and Felix Tam