HONG KONG • Thousands of people took to the streets of Hong Kong to mark China's national day with a pro-democracy rally and voice growing fears that the city's liberties are under threat from Beijing.
Yesterday's protest, dubbed an "anti-authoritarian rally", also came after recent arrests of prominent pro-democracy activists, including a former lawmaker.
A number of other activists, including founding members of the pro-democracy rallies in 2014 which blocked thoroughfares for 79 days, are also facing charges and possible jail terms.
"Authoritarian rule has already become Hong Kong's reality," Mr Benny Tai, one of the founders of the movement, told protesters. "We are having today's rally... because we hope more Hong Kong people will see the true nature of the government," added Mr Tai, a law professor.
Protesters singled out Chief Executive Carrie Lam and Justice Secretary Rimsky Yuen, along with Chinese President Xi Jinping, with their pictures placed on placards saying "authoritarian clown".
Others carried a black banner mimicking the Chinese national flag with five yellow stars drawn on it. An AFP reporter at the scene estimated the crowd at the rally to be 5,000-strong.
University student Vince Ho, 21, felt the authorities' hardline approach was likely to spur others into action, saying: "I think it would even encourage more people to come out to redress the injustice."
Meanwhile, Mrs Lam yesterday called for unity in her first national day speech since she became Chief Executive in July.
"I have been deeply impressed by the strength bestowed upon us by our country," Mrs Lam said. "As long as we capitalise on our strengths, stay focused, seize the opportunities before us and stand united, I am sure that Hong Kong can reach even greater heights."