HK braces for fresh anti-government march


Hong Kong: Hong Kong is bracing for another huge anti-government march with seemingly no end in sight to the turmoil engulfing the finance hub, sparked by years of rising anger over Beijing’s rule.

The city has been plunged into its worst crisis in recent history by weeks of marches and sporadic violent confrontations between police and pockets of hardcore protesters.The initial protests were lit by a now-suspended Bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China.

But they have since evolved into a wider movement calling for democratic reforms, universal suffrage and a halt to sliding freedoms in the semi-autonomous territory.

In a city unaccustomed to such upheaval, police have fired tear gas and rubber bullets while the parliament has been trashed by protesters – as Beijing’s authority faces its most serious challenge since Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997.

The latest rally – which will follow a now well-trodden route through the main island’s streets – will be the seventh weekend in a row that protesters have come out en masse.

The huge crowds have had little luck persuading the city’s unelected leaders – or Beijing – to change tack on the hub’s future.

Under the 1997 handover deal with Britain, China promised to allow Hong Kong to keep key liberties such as its independent judiciary and freedom of speech.

But many say those provisions are already being curtailed, citing the disappearance into mainland custody of dissident booksellers, the disqualification of prominent politicians and the jailing of pro-democracy protest leaders.

Authorities have also resisted calls for the city’s leader to be directly elected by the people.

Protesters have vowed to keep their movement going until their core demands are met, such as the resignation of city leader Carrie Lam, an independent inquiry into police tactics, amnesty and a permanent withdrawal of the Bill.

They have also begun calling once more for universal suffrage.

Yet there is little sign that either Lam or Beijing is willing to budge.

Beyond agreeing to suspend the extradition Bill there has been few other concessions and fears are rising that Beijing’s patience is running out.

Earlier this week the South China Morning Post reported that Beijing was drawing up a plan to deal with Hong Kong, citing sources on the mainland.

But the details that were published suggested little appetite to defuse public anger over sliding freedoms and instead focused on shoring up support for Lam and the police. — AFP

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