In a move aimed at breathing life into Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, thousands gathered at the city’s Victoria Park today in open defiance of Beijing’s insistence that it have final say on candidates for the territory’s next leader.
Organizers said 13,000 attended the rally, but police claimed the figure was 8,800. Regardless, the number is far fewer than the tens of thousands that came out for past protests calling for free and open elections in 2017 to choose a new “chief executive” for the former British colony.
In any case, The South China Morning Post says it’s “the first major post-Occupy Movement mass rally.”
According to the SCMP:
“[Placards] and balloons all paying homage to the “Umbrella Movement” abounded. At 2.20pm, the march began with the head of the rally leaving Victoria Park’s eastern entrance through Tin Hau.
“Leading the charge were key figures of the Occupy Central movement including Benny Tai Yiu-ting, Chan Kin-man and Reverend Chu Yiu-ming. Others at the front included Democratic Party founding chairman Martin Lee Chu-Ming as well as Daisy Chan Sin-Ying.”
Reuters reports that some 2,000 police flanked the protesters as they marched through the city’s glitzy shopping and financial districts, “seeking to avoid a repeat of the so-called Occupy Central campaign that saw demonstrations shut down key roads for 2-1/2 months.”
Beginning in August, the mass protests attracted international attention amid fears of a Tiananmen Square-style crackdown that never came. However, Hong Kong police did move aggressively on several occasions to try to break up the mass protests that paralyzed parts of the city.
In September, at the height of the mass protests, we published this primer on the history of Hong Kong and what’s at stake for the pro-democracy movement.