(Bloomberg) — Hong Kong protesters rang in the new year with a wave of fresh mass demonstrations, as they tried to show they could maintain pressure on the Beijing-backed government into 2020.
The Civil Human Rights Front — organizer of some of the biggest rallies to rock the Asian financial center over the past six months — obtained police approval for a New Year’s Day march across Hong Kong Island. On New Year’s Eve, when residents might normally watch fireworks fall over Victoria Harbor, protesters urged supporters to gather at shopping centers and build a human chain around the former British colony.
The turnout could signal the staying power of a pro-democracy movement that has led to countless of violent clashes with police, pushed the economy into recession and forced the cancellation of numerous events, including the New Year’s fireworks show. The city’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, said in a year-end video message that restoring social “order and harmony” should be the city’s resolution for 2020.
Historic protests erupted in June in opposition to now-withdrawn legislation that would’ve allowed extraditions to mainland China and quickly morphed into a broader movement against Beijing’s rule. The Communist Party and its local appointees have so far refused to meet demonstrators’ demands including calls for direct leadership elections.
Here’s the latest (all times local):
Tear gas fired in the new year (12:07 a.m.)
Riot police fired tear gas in the Mong Kok district of Kowloon shortly after the city headed into the new year. The officers moved in as protesters threw petrol bombs on the main thoroughfare.
Water cannons used on protesters (11:20 p.m.)
Police used water cannons briefly in Mong Kok in Kowloon to disperse protesters who blocked the main thoroughfare. Riot police made a number of arrests. In the popular shopping district Tsim Sha Tsui, thousands of protesters gathered at the harborfront as the city readied to count down to the new year. Some of the demonstrators wore masks, held up mobile phones with lights shining and displayed a banner saying, “Liberate Hong Kong. Revolution of our times.”
Xi defends “one country, two systems” (7:15 p.m.)
Chinese President Xi Jinping used his New Year’s Eve address to defend China’s system for running Hong Kong. Xi argued the success of neighboring Macau, which he visited earlier this month, shows that the “one country, two systems” framework used to govern both former European colonies “is fully applicable, achievable and popular.”
“Without a harmonious and stable environment, how can people live in peace and enjoy their work?” Xi asked. “I sincerely wish Hong Kong well. Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability is the wish of Hong Kong compatriots and the expectation of our motherland.”
Small scale protests were held across the city on Tuesday evening.
Lam urges return to order (11:45 a.m.)
Restoring order and harmony in society should be a resolution for the new year, leader Lam said in a year-end video message. “Let’s start 2020 with a new resolution: to restore order and harmony in society. So we begin again, together,” she said.
She vowed to “not shy away” from her responsibility and to “listen humbly to find a way out,” while upholding the “one country, two systems” framework that assures Hong Kong’s autonomy from Beijing. “To allow Hong Kong to move forward steadily, we must handle the problems at hand and acknowledge the shortcomings in our system,” Lam said.
New Year’s Day March
People will gather at centrally located Victoria Park — the starting point for other mass marches thrown by CHRF — starting at 2 p.m. and begin walking toward the city’s central financial and shopping areas around 3 p.m. They plan to start early if the park’s central lawn is 85% full, or if crowds overflow in the Wan Chai and Admiralty areas, which have seen regular violence over the past six months.
“We continue to show our opposition to Carrie Lam and the police force for police brutality,” Eric Lai, vice convenor of CHRF, told a news conference Monday. He said the protest’s other aims included solidarity with those detained in previous demonstrations.
–With assistance from Dandan Li and Justin Chin.
To contact the reporters on this story: Natalie Lung in Hong Kong at firstname.lastname@example.org;Karen Leigh in Hong Kong at email@example.com;Fion Li in Hong Kong at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Brendan Scott at email@example.com, Colum Murphy
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Published at Tue, 31 Dec 2019 08:32:09 +0000