Hong Kong police on alert on anniversary of protests

Making a stand: A couple holding a yellow umbrella, the symbol of the Occupy Central movement, posing for their wedding photo in front of a government building in Hong Kong. — Reuters

HONG KONG: Hong Kong police patrolled the area around government buildings ahead of rallies planned to mark the first anniversary of pro-democracy protests that crippled parts of the Chinese-controlled city.

Police will be on alert to avoid a repeat of last year when protesters streamed on to major highways in a push for full democracy, demonstrations that became the biggest political challenge to Beijing’s Communist Party leaders for decades.

Metal barriers were stockpiled in key locations, including government headquarters and near the office of Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying, although activists said they had no plan to re-occupy streets in the financial centre and crowds are expected to be relatively small.

Last year’s 79-day protests failed to persuade China to allow a fully democratic vote for the city’s next leader in 2017, instead of from a list of pre-screened, pro-Beijing candidates, but many say the demonstrations triggered a political awakening.

Leaders of the Occupy protests are expected to appear at various rallies, including a moment of silence to mark the time when police fired volleys of tear gas to disperse demonstrators.

Dubbed the Umbrella Movement for the umbrellas protesters used to defend against tear gas, the unrest was the worst since China took back control of Hong Kong from Britain in 1997.

On Saturday, a poster of Jesus Christ in a flowing robe carrying a yellow umbrella was hung on a wall outside government headquarters, christened the “Lennon” wall during the protests as a tribute to John Lennon.

The anniversary comes as recent comments from Beijing’s top representative in Hong Kong have reignited fears about the Chinese central government’s expanding influence in the city. — Reuters

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