HONG KONG, Aug 20, 2019, Asia Times. Hong Kong’s citizens are still waiting for the government to respond after an estimated 1.7 million people joined the city’s largest demonstration on Sunday, which ended peacefully and without any tear gas in the air, reported the Asia Times.
Entering its 11th week of demonstrations since June, which have at times caused chaos in the financial hub as masked protesters fought street battles with riot police over the extradition bill, Sunday’s rally and march was peaceful.
On Sunday, people from all parts of society had called for a peaceful and non-violent demonstration in the hope the government would listen, respond and take action.
With too many people joining the rally in Victoria Park on Sunday, protesters spilled over the roads and as they left the park to march, tens of thousands more were trying to get into the park.
The rally orgniser, the Civil Human Rights Front, said 1.7 million people joined the seven-hour-long demonstration, but police put the figure at 128,000 at its peak.
But photos and videos that went viral on social media showed the crowd trying to get to Victoria Park clogging the adjacent districts including Tin Hau, Fortress Hill and North Point, which are 1.7 kilometers from the rally site. The huge crowd ignored the torrential rain coming down at the time.
Meanwhile, people left the park, occupied the main roads, went in the direction of Central and left.
During the seven-hour-long demonstration, there was no police presence in the vicinity. A large number of riot police, meanwhile, were deployed near Beijing’s Liaison Office in Western District, but the protesters stayed away.
Hong Kong police last week banned the organizers from holding the march from Victoria Park to Charter Road in Central.
Sunday’s demonstration ended at 9pm. About 1,000 protesters then gathered on Harcourt Road in Admiralty, pointing their laser beams at the building that houses the government headquarters and chanting slogans. They left before midnight.
Before the start of Sunday’s march, the administration under Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor issued a statement, expressing regret over a public meeting targeting the police force.
It repeated its condemnation of radical and violent protesters and emphasized that police officers had been working under tremendous pressure. It also reiterated the government fully supported the police force.
Altogether, the government issued five other announcements, including issues about protesters occupying roads, the closure of the government facilities in Central and Western districts and a warning from police to protesters gathered in Admiralty.
The last statement, only two paragraphs long and issued at 10pm, said that “though the public meeting was generally peaceful, the participants occupied a number of thoroughfares on Hong Kong Island, seriously affecting traffic and causing much inconvenience to the community.
“It was most important to restore social order as soon as possible. The Government will begin sincere dialogue with the public, mend social rifts and rebuild social harmony when everything has calmed down.”
However, there was no word from the government about the five demands the protesters have called to be addressed or how to mend social rifts.
As of noon on Monday, no government official or pro-Beijing political party had made a comment.
Meanwhile, the Global Times, one of China’s most outspoken state media outlets, said in an editorial on Monday that Hong Kong showed signs of “violence retreat” for the first time in recent weeks due to the drill of armed police in Shenzhen, China, but challenges are ahead.
The editorial claimed the drill was the crucial factor that stopped the violence by radical protesters. It also said the radical protesters were under great pressure after the violent treatment of Global Times’ reporter Fu Guohao at the airport last week.
It added that the next two weeks would be critical and asked the pro-Beijing and pro-government camps to unite to show their support of the Hong Kong government and police force.
Meanwhile, more tycoons have taken out newspaper advertisements to speak against the violence, but this time a tycoon linked the protests with “Hong Kong independence.”
Gordon Wu Ying-sheung, the chairman of Hopewell Holdings, took out a full-page newspaper advertisement on Monday which said he “solemnly says no to Hong Kong independence and rioters, and pays tribute to those safeguarding rule of law, in particular the police force.”
Wu took part in a pro-government rally at Tamar Park on Saturday, along with some other tycoons, and said police had been restrained and professional in handling the “arbitrary unrest” in recent weeks.
He added that he believes prosecutors and the judiciary, as well as police, will undoubtedly do what they need to do in accordance with the law, to safeguard Hong Kong’s rule of law and social order.
Other local tycoons have also taken out newspaper advertisements to speak out against the violence, including Li Ka-shing.