Hong Kongers mark half a year of protest with mammoth rally

Hong Kong: Vast crowds of democracy protesters thronged Hong Kong’s streets on Sunday in a forceful display of support for the movement as it marks six months with organisers warning the city’s pro-Beijing leaders they had a “last chance” to end the political crisis.
Hundreds of thousands snaked their way through the financial hub’s main island under crisp winter skies in the biggest turnout for months, a vivid illustration of the hostility that still seethes towards the government after half a year of unrest.
As night fell the crowds switched on their mobile phone torches, creating a glittering carpet of lights that stretched far into the distance, their chants bouncing off the towering skyscrapers above.
The rally, which received rare police permission, came two weeks after pro-establishment parties got a drubbing in local elections, shattering government claims that a “silent majority” opposed the protests.
Many of the black-clad attendees voiced anger and frustration that chief executive Carrie Lam and Beijing have ruled out any further concessions despite the landslide election defeat.
“No matter how we express our views, through peacefully marching, through civilised elections, the government won’t listen,” said a 50-year-old protester, who gave his surname Wong.
“I don’t know how long the fight will be,” added another protester, who gave his first name as Kelvin. “So far I can’t see the end but we won’t back down.” A fruit trader, who gave his surname Leung, was handing out free punnets of strawberries to protesters.
“I wanted to bring something sweet for Hong Kong’s people who have lived a very difficult half year,” he said. Semi-autonomous Hong Kong has been battered by increasingly violent demonstrations in the starkest challenge the city has presented to Beijing since its 1997 handover from Britain. The last fortnight has seen a marked drop in violence and vandalism after the landslide win by pro-democracy candidates.
Police took the unusual step of allowing the Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF) to hold Sunday’s march — the first time the group has been granted permission since mid-August — but they warned they would have zero tolerance for violence by radicals.
— AFP