HONG KONG—More than 1,000 people rallied in the rain in Hong Kong‘s financial district on Dec. 29, chanting slogans in favor of democracy as they huddled under a sea of umbrellas.
The crowd, a mix of young and older people, wore black and turquoise surgical masks to hide their identities as they listened to organizers who spoke in a park on a makeshift stage.
“There may be fewer people. We all know that no matter how many people come out or how many times, the government ignores you,” said a 30-year-old woman in black clothing surnamed Wong, who works in the legal sector.
“Hongkongers will never stop. We see unfairness, injustice. It contradicts our fundamental beliefs,” she said.
Hong Kong has been convulsed by more than six months of protests, triggered by a now-withdrawn bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China, where courts are controlled by the Communist Party.
The demonstrations have since evolved into a broader pro-democracy movement and have again become more confrontational in recent days, with police clashing with protesters at several shopping malls and busy tourist areas.
On Dec. 28, riot police arrested about a dozen protesters and used pepper spray to break up a gathering aimed at disrupting retail businesses near the border with mainland China.
More protests are planned in coming days, including a countdown to New Year’s Day and a march on Jan. 1, 2020, that could attract a big crowd.
Protesters are angry about what they see as increased meddling by Beijing in freedoms promised to the former British colony when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997. China denies interfering, saying it’s committed to the “one country, two systems” formula put in place at that time, and blames foreign forces for fomenting unrest.
A 20-year old university student, who gave his name as Malcolm, said it’s becoming harder to be optimistic about the prospects for change.
“More realistic people know there’s no way for us to win, but now is not the time for us to be pessimistic,” he said, adding that he would continue to push for full democracy for Hong Kong.
By Sarah Wu