Hong Kong protesters rally for support at British Consulate
HONG KONG (AP) — Hundreds of demonstrators rallied Sunday outside the British Consulate in Hong Kong, stepping up calls for international support in their months-long campaign for democratic reforms in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.
Those gathered waved British flags, sang "God save the Queen" and chanted "U.K. save Hong Kong." With banners declaring "one country, two systems is dead," they repeated calls for Hong Kong's former colonial ruler to ensure the city's autonomy is upheld under agreements made when it ceded power to China in 1997. Demonstrators held similar rallies Sept.1 at the British facility and last weekend at the U.S. Consulate.
The protests were triggered in June by an extradition bill that many saw as an example of China's increasing intrusion and a chipping away at Hong Kong's freedoms and rights, many of which are not accorded to mainland China.
The government promised this month to withdraw the bill, which would have allowed some criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial, but protesters have widened their demands to include direct elections for the city's leaders and police accountability.
The summer of protest has seen clashes between protesters and Hong Kong's police, who demonstrators have accused of abuses. More than 1,300 people have been arrested since June. The unrest has further battered Hong Kong's economy, which was already reeling from the U.S.-China trade war. It is also seen as an embarrassment to China's ruling Communist Party ahead of Oct. 1 National Day celebrations.
There were plans to converge later Sunday at the Causeway Bay shopping district in defiance of a police ban of a rally by the Civil Human Rights Front. Police also banned the group's Aug. 31 march but protesters turned up anyway. Clashes erupted that night, with police storming a subway car and hitting passengers with batons and pepper spray.
Pro-democracy protesters and supporters of the central government in Beijing clashed Saturday at a shopping mall and several public places. Police arrested more than a dozen people and hospital authorities said 25 were injured.
The violence amid the mid-autumn festival holiday came after several nights of peaceful rallies that featured protesters belting out a new protest song in mass singing at shopping malls. Thousands of people also carried lanterns with pro-democracy messages in public areas and formed illuminated human chains on two of the city's peaks on Friday night to mark the major Chinese festival.