Colorful placards, umbrellas, and water cannon again filled Hong Kong streets on Sept. 28 as hundreds of thousands of protesters turned out to mark the fifth anniversary of mass pro-democracy protests known as the Umbrella Movement.
The rally organizer, Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF), said that around 200,000 to 300,000 showed up for the 7:00 p.m. rally at Tamar Park near government headquarters in Admiralty to mark the day.
The 2014 protests saw activists occupying the key thoroughfares in downtown Hong Kong for 79 days to demand that the city’s leader be elected by universal suffrage.
‘We Are Back’
Opposition to the encroaching influence of the Chinese regime has led to weekly protests in Hong Kong since June.
Although the city’s leader Carrie Lam in early September announced that the government would withdraw the extradition bill that triggered the mass protests, this has not assuaged protesters’ concerns. They have continued to come out en masse to demand an independent investigation into police violence, and free and fair elections.
Early in the evening, crowds mostly in black shirts gathered at Tamar Park against the banner that read “We Are Back” in the back, referencing a promise made toward the end of the Umbrella Movement that the protesters would be back.
They observed a minute of silence to mourn the first firing of tear gas in the city that occurred during the Umbrella Movement.
Tommy Cheung, one of nine student leaders during the 2014 protests that received jail terms for their involvement, said that he came straight to the rally after finishing his community service hours for the day.
“We have no turning back,” he said at the rally.
Another former student leader Joshua Wong also sought to reassure the public, saying that U.S. legislation supporting the movement will soon head to a vote and may pass by the end of the year.
Wong had just returned from the United States where he met with U.S. lawmakers to advocate for the passage of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.
The bill would compel the U.S. administration to impose sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials responsible for human rights abuses in the city.
Wong also announced at a separate event that he would run for local district council election in November.
In the evening, a group of protesters threw objects including bricks and petrol bombs toward the government offices, prompting police to fire tear gas and water cannon.
A protester wearing a shirt in support of the movement expressed anger toward the police and blamed them for “worsening the situation.”
Police have fired thousands of canisters of tear gas in recent months and arrested around 1,600 people associated with the protests. Nearly a third of them were students, according to a Sept. 27 police briefing.
“No matter how much water cannons or tear gas the police use, it can’t scare anyone,” he told The Epoch Times Hong Kong bureau. “We just withdraw like water,” he said.
The previous evening, around 50,000 protesters rallied at Edinburgh Place in Central District to raise concerns about the treatment of detained protesters at San Uk Lang Holding Center, a facility near the mainland border.
The rally organizer read out a letter from an unnamed protester who was detained at the site. The protester said that the guards at the center tortured and sexually abused him after stripping him naked and putting a mask over his head. He called the experience “unimaginable abuse,” but did not go into details.
The protester, who was arrested in August, said that the police pepper-sprayed him in the face after he refused to unlock his phone.
“Our bodies and heart can feel their injuries, so we have to come out to support them, to tell the government we won’t give up,” a rally attendee told The Epoch Times’s sister media NTD on Sept. 27.