Hong Kong’s protests have raged for seven months after being sparked by a now-abandoned proposal to allow extraditions to the authoritarian mainland, where the opaque legal system answers to the Communist Party.
They soon morphed into a wider movement calling for greater freedoms in what is the most concerted challenge to Beijing’s rule since the former British colony’s 1997 handover.
At Sunday’s rally, thousands gathered in the heart of the Central commercial district, chanting slogans such as “Stand with Hong Kong, fight for freedom”.
Some waved American, British and Hong Kong independence flags. There were many families and children present with a peaceful atmosphere until police ordered the crowds to leave.
The frequency and ferocity of Hong Kong’s protests have died down over the last month, but signs of the political unrest are everywhere, from graffiti daubed on walls to huge fences surrounding government buildings.
The city’s police force is now loathed by large swathes of the city, heckled by crowds both at protest sites and in their local neighbourhoods.
Critics accuse police of using excessive force, with no police officer disciplined or punished in the last seven months of protests.
Police say they have used force commensurate with the levels of violence they face from hardcore protesters who routinely throw bricks and petrol bombs.
The force has blamed viral social media videos of officers making hard arrests and media coverage for their plummeting reputation among the city’s inhabitants.
Among key demands of the protest movement are an independent inquiry into the police, an amnesty for 7,000 people arrested and fully free elections.
Beijing and local leader Carrie Lam have refused further concessions and defended police tactics.
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