Hong Kong—Despite being an unusually cold day, approximately 800,000 people flocked to Hong Kong’s central park on December 8, Sunday, marking six straight months since the protests began.
Sunday’s demonstration was a largely peaceful one, with people marching from Victoria Park to the business district downtown, many of whom were shouting “Rotten cops are killers, rapists, and gangsters,” as they walked. Toward evening, some more radical elements threw petrol bombs at the entrance of the High Court and Court of Final Appeal, reportedly in response to police confiscating weapons such as knives and a Glock semi-automatic pistol prior to the demonstration.
While the official police tally was at 183,000, the march’s organisers pegged the number of attendees to close to 800,000, which many took as a sign that the fervour which drove people to gather together has not abated, despite huge wins in the elections some weeks ago.
While the original purpose of the protests was to call for the scrapping of a contentious extradition bill, the activists’ call has expanded to greater democratic freedoms. These “5 demands” are, 1) the complete withdrawal of the extradition bill; 2) a retraction from the government of the characterization of the protests as “riots”; 3) the release and acquittal of protestors who had been arrested; 4) an establishment of an independent commission to investigate police behavior during the protests and 5) the resignation of the Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, as well as full freedom to elect the city’s Legislative Council and Chief Executive.
The extradition bill was withdrawn in October, but little heed has been paid to the other demands, which has stoked the anger of the protestors, many believe.
Ms Lam has said she would set up an independent review committee that will look into the root cause of the protests, but the rallies have been unsatisfied with the leeway given to police in squelching the protests.
Protesters continue to press Ms Lam to heed their calls. The South China Morning Post (SCMP) quoted the deputy convenor of the front, Eric Lai Yan-ho, as saying, “The political message is clear. People are resilient and people are persistent with the five demands.”
One of the march organisers from the Civil Human Rights Front, Jimmy Sham, sad on Sunday, “We must remind Carrie Lam these still are a lot of people. We urge her to look squarely at this and seriously consider our demand for an independent commission.”
Sunday’s gathering was meant to be in sync with the Human Rights Day, celebrated on December 10 each year in honour of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. The weekend also marked the fortieth anniversary of the the “Kaohsiung Incident” in Taiwan, where protesters gathered on Human Rights Day to call for democracy.
Organisers said that they want to gather support from overseas in their fight, declaring in a statement that “our rally today is to gather everyone in Hong Kong to defend our city as well as advancing international human rights movement with global civil society.” -/TISG