HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG, REUTERS) - Hong Kong protesters returned to the city centre in a peaceful rally after the city's pro-democracy forces won by a landslide in local district council elections in a rebuke of the government and its backers in Beijing.
President Donald Trump signed legislation this week expressing US support for Hong Kong protesters, prompting China to threaten retaliation as the two sides get close to signing a phase one trade deal. Police on Friday (Nov 29) said a nearly two-week siege of Hong Kong Polytechnic University, a violent stand-off between activists and officers that transfixed the city, had come to an end.
While last week's vote unfolded peacefully, there are concerns in the financial hub that leader Carrie Lam's failure to make any concessions to demonstrators in its wake could fuel more anger. After a Thanksgiving rally in the city centre on Thursday, weekend rallies include one on Sunday to show gratitude to the US for introducing the Hong Kong legislation.
Despite the calm, demonstrators are pressing to keep up the momentum of their movement. They are incensed by what they see as Chinese interference in freedoms promised when Britain returned Hong Kong to Beijing in 1997.
China denies interfering, and says it is committed to the “one country, two systems” formula put in place at that time. It has blamed foreign forces for fomenting unrest.
“I came out for the peaceful protest in June when there was more than one million people, but the government did not listen to our demands,” said a 71-year-old woman in Hong Kong’s Central district, who only gave her name as Ponn.
She brought her own plastic stool to a cross-generational protest at the city’s Chater Garden, where a modest crowd of a few hundred people gathered to listen to pro-democracy speakers. She came with her daughter and son-in-law.
“I have seen so much police brutality and unlawful arrests. This is not the Hong Kong I know. I came today because I want the government to know that we are not happy with what they have done to our generation.”
At one point the crowd rose to sing “Glory to Hong Kong”, which has become the unofficial anthem of protests.
Many of them put their hands in the air with five fingers outstretched, a symbol of the pro-democracy movement.
“My mum asked me to come and protect her. So I came with my husband. It has been quiet after the district elections and that is unexpected,” Ponn’s 26-year-old daughter told Reuters. “We should not stop there, I came today because we have to keep fighting.”