HONG KONG – Thousands of protesters regrouped after police fired tear gas at them Sunday and marched along a thoroughfare in downtown Hong Kong in a second straight day of defiance, sparking fears of more violence ahead of China’s National Day.
Protesters, many clad in black with umbrellas and carrying pro-democracy posters, sang songs and chanted “Stand with Hong Kong, fight for freedom” as they took over a stretch of a road more than 1 kilometer (1.6 mile) long and headed toward the government office complex.
Many fled earlier after riot police fired multiple rounds of tear gas to disperse a large crowd that amassed at the Causeway Bay shopping area and threw objects in their direction. But protesters returned to start their march, some carrying American, British and other foreign flags.
Some of them defaced, tore down and burned signs congratulating China’s Communist Party, which will mark its 70th year in power Tuesday. Others sprayed graffiti along walls and smashed windows at a subway exit. A police helicopter was hovering above.
Sunday’s gathering, a continuation of monthslong protests for greater democracy in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory, is part of global “anti-totalitarianism” rallies planned in more than 60 cities worldwide to denounce “Chinese tyranny.”
In Sydney, more than 1,000 people rallied in support of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, yelling “Fight for freedom” and “Stand with Hong Kong.”
On Saturday, police also fired tear gas and water cannons after protesters threw bricks and firebombs at government buildings following a massive rally in downtown Hong Kong. The clashes were part of a familiar cycle since protests began in June over a now-shelved extradition bill and have since snowballed into an anti-China movement.
Protesters are also planning to march Tuesday despite a police ban, sparking fears of more ugly scenes that could embarrass Chinese President Xi Jinping as his ruling Communist Party marks the 70th anniversary.
Many said they will wear mourning black in a direct challenge to the authority of the Communist Party, with posters calling for Oct. 1 to be marked as “A Day of Grief.”
Hong Kong’s government has scaled down National Day celebrations in the city, canceling an annual firework display and moving a reception indoor.
Despite security concerns, the government said Sunday that Chief Executive Carrie Lam will lead a delegation of more than 240 people to Beijing on Monday to participate in the festivities. She will be represented by Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung in her absence and return to the city on Tuesday evening.
Lam held her first community dialogue with the public Thursday in a bid to diffuse tensions but failed to persuade protesters, who vowed to press on until their demands including direct elections for the city’s leader and police accountability are met.
Beijing supporters rally
Earlier Sunday, hundreds of pro-Beijing supporters sang the national anthem and happy birthday to China in a counter show of solidarity for Chinese rule. Wearing red and carrying Chinese flags and posters, they chanted “I am a citizen of China” at a waterfront cultural center. They were later bused to the Victoria Peak hilltop for the same repertoire.
Organizer Innes Tang said the crowd, all Hong Kong citizens, responded to his invitation on social media to “promote positivity and patriotism” and urged protesters to replace violence with dialogue.
“We want to take this time for the people to express our love for our country China. We want to show the international community that there is another voice to Hong Kong” apart from the protests, he said.
Mobs of pro-Beijing supporters have appeared in malls and on the streets in recent weeks to counter pro-democracy protesters, leading to brawls between the rival camps.
China Awards National Medals, Honorary Titles China’s president has presented national medals and honorary titles to 42 people.
Many people view the extradition bill, that would have sent criminal suspects to mainland China for trial, as a glaring example of the erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy under the “one country, two systems” policy when the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
China has denied chipping away at Hong Kong’s freedom and accused the U.S. and other foreign powers of fomenting the unrest to weaken its dominance.