Wednesday 23 October 2019

Thousands march in Hong Kong on 70th anniversary of founding of China

An anti-government protester walks in Sha Tin district, on China's National Day, in Hong Kong, China October 1, 2019. Picture: REUTERS/Jorge Silva
An anti-government protester walks in Sha Tin district, on China's National Day, in Hong Kong, China October 1, 2019. Picture: REUTERS/Jorge Silva

Eileen Ng and John Leicester

Thousands of black-clad pro-democracy protesters defied a police ban and marched in central Hong Kong on Tuesday, urging China's Communist Party to "return power to the people" as the party celebrated its 70th year of rule.

Thousands of others amassed for rallies at several locations in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory, which was under a tight security clampdown.

Anti-government protesters walk in tear gas during a protest on China's National Day, in Wong Tai Sin, Hong Kong, China October 1, 2019. Picture: REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
Anti-government protesters walk in tear gas during a protest on China's National Day, in Wong Tai Sin, Hong Kong, China October 1, 2019. Picture: REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

At least 11 underground stations were closed, and scores of police stood guard outside government offices.

"Today we are out to tell the Communist Party that Hong Kong people have nothing to celebrate," said activist Lee Cheuk-yan.

"We are mourning that in 70 years of Communist Party rule, the democratic rights of people in Hong Kong and China are being denied. We will continue to fight."

Many shopping centres across Hong Kong were shut amid fears of chaos.

An anti-government protester runs from tear gas during a protest on China's National Day, in Wong Tai Sin, Hong Kong, China October 1, 2019. Picture: REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
An anti-government protester runs from tear gas during a protest on China's National Day, in Wong Tai Sin, Hong Kong, China October 1, 2019. Picture: REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Posters in the city called for the October 1 anniversary to be marked as "A Day of Grief."

Dressed in a black T-shirt and dark jeans, 40-year-old Bob Wong said his clothing expressed "mourning" over "the death of Hong Kong's future".

READ MORE: China’s anniversary parade shows economic and military might

Black-clad Yvonne Ng, 67, fumed over the arrest of many young people in the months-long protests.

Anti-government protesters raise their hands as they march on China's National Day in Hong Kong, China October 1, 2019. Picture: REUTERS/Susana Vera
Anti-government protesters raise their hands as they march on China's National Day in Hong Kong, China October 1, 2019. Picture: REUTERS/Susana Vera

"We're not celebrating National Day," she said as she walked through the Causeway Bay shopping district.

The popular LIHKG online chat forum used by protesters was inaccessible on mobile phones, believed to have been hacked to prevent communication by protesters.

On Tuesday morning, police used pepper spray to break up a brief scuffle between Beijing supporters and a small group of pro-democracy protesters as the city's government marked the anniversary in a solemn ceremony.

An annual fireworks display had been called off two weeks ago.

Anti-government protesters walk on photographs of Chinese President Xi Jinping at Causeway Bay, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019, in Hong Kong while the celebration of the People's Republic's 70th anniversary is taking place in Beijing.Picture: AP Photo/Vincent Thian
Anti-government protesters walk on photographs of Chinese President Xi Jinping at Causeway Bay, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019, in Hong Kong while the celebration of the People's Republic's 70th anniversary is taking place in Beijing.Picture: AP Photo/Vincent Thian

Police lined up to separate the demonstrators and counter-protesters, but some minor scuffles ensued.

Two pro-Beijing protesters were arrested.

Hong Kong chief secretary Matthew Cheung told hundreds of guests at a reception that the city has become "unrecognisable" due to violent acts by protesters.

Mr Cheung was representing the city's leader, Carrie Lam, who led a delegation to Beijing to join National Day festivities there.

Anti-government protesters walk past an Yves Saint Laurent store, on China's National Day in Hong Kong, China October 1, 2019. Picture: REUTERS/Susana Vera
Anti-government protesters walk past an Yves Saint Laurent store, on China's National Day in Hong Kong, China October 1, 2019. Picture: REUTERS/Susana Vera

Mr Cheung said Beijing fully supports the "one country, two systems" framework that gives Hong Kong freedoms and rights not enjoyed on the mainland.

The system was implemented when the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

The protests began in early June over a now-shelved extradition bill that activists say was an example of how those promises have been eroding.

Anti-government protesters march Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019, in Hong Kong while the celebration of the People's Republic's 70th anniversary is taking place in Beijing. Picture: AP Photo/Vincent Thian
Anti-government protesters march Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019, in Hong Kong while the celebration of the People's Republic's 70th anniversary is taking place in Beijing. Picture: AP Photo/Vincent Thian

Police warned Monday that hard-line protesters may engage in extreme acts that are "one step closer to terrorism," such as killing police officers, posing as police officials to kill civilians and large-scale arson, including at gas stations.

Activists ridiculed the assertion as a scare tactic.

Anti-government protesters demonstrate at the Southorn playground in Wan Chai district, on China’s National Day in Hong Kong, China October 1, 2019. Picture: REUTERS/Susana Vera
Anti-government protesters demonstrate at the Southorn playground in Wan Chai district, on China’s National Day in Hong Kong, China October 1, 2019. Picture: REUTERS/Susana Vera

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