Protesters carry US national flags during a march from Chater Garden to the US Consulate in Hong Kong on September 8, 2019. Riot police on September 8 chased groups of hardcore protesters who blocked roads, vandalised nearby subway stations and set makeshift barricades on fire as the evening set in, while an earlier main daytime rally saw pro-democracy activists marching to the United States consulate in Hong Kong in a bid to ramp up international pressure on Beijing following three months of huge and sometimes violent protests.
AFP/Vivek Prakash
Clashes after peaceful crowd takes Hong Kong message to US consulate
Jerome Taylor, Yan Zhao (Agence France-Presse) - September 9, 2019 - 8:23am

HONG KONG, China — Pro-democracy activists jammed Hong Kong streets in a march to the United States consulate on Sunday in a bid to ramp up international pressure on Beijing, but hardcore protesters later clashed with riot police across the city's core.

Millions have demonstrated over the last 14 weeks in the biggest challenge to China's rule since the city's handover from Britain in 1997.

The protests were lit by a now-scrapped plan to allow extraditions to the authoritarian mainland, seen by opponents as the latest move by China to chip away at the international finance hub's unique freedoms.

But after Beijing and city leaders took a hard line the movement snowballed into a broader campaign calling for greater democracy, police accountability and an amnesty for those arrested.

Sunday's protest featured another massive turnout for a movement that has gripped the semi-autonomous territory and plunged it into a political crisis. 

Dense crowds of protesters spent hours slowly filing past Washington's consulate in the thick tropical heat. Many waved US flags, some sang the Star Spangled Banner, and others held signs calling on President Donald Trump to "liberate" Hong Kong. 

In chants and speeches they called on the US to pressure Beijing to meet their demands and for Congress to pass a recently proposed bill that expresses support for the protest.

"More than 1,000 protesters have been arrested. We can't do anything but come out onto the streets. I feel hopeless," 30-year-old protester Jenny Chan, told AFP. 

"I think aside from foreign countries, no one can really help us," she added.

In what has become a now familiar pattern, the main daytime rally passed off peacefully. 

But as evening set in, riot police chased groups of hardcore protesters who blocked roads, vandalised nearby subway stations and set makeshift barricades on fire. 

One fire burned at an entrance to the subway in the corporate district of Central, where a protester also smashed the station's exterior glass.

In the shopping area of Causeway Bay, officers fired tear gas outside another subway station. 

Paramedics took away on a stretcher a man who collapsed after inhaling the gas, and police detained suspected protesters inside that station.

Beijing riled by criticism

Hong Kong is a major international business hub thanks to freedoms unheard of on the mainland under a 50-year deal signed between China and Britain. 

But Beijing balks at any criticism from foreign governments over its handling of the city, which it insists is a purely internal issue.

Authorities and state media have portrayed the protests as a separatist movement backed by foreign "black hands", primarily aiming their ire at the US and Britain.

While some American politicians on both sides of the aisle have expressed support for the democratic goals of the protesters, the Trump administration has maintained a more hands-off approach while it fights a trade war with China.

Trump has called for a peaceful resolution to the political crisis and urged China against escalating with a violent crackdown. 

But he has also said it is up to Beijing to handle the protests.

Washington has rejected China's allegations that it is backing the demonstrators and Beijing has shown little evidence to back its claims beyond supportive statements from some politicians. 

The protests show no signs of abating, and the city's unelected pro-Beijing leader Carrie Lam has struck an uncompromising tone for much of the last three months. 

On Wednesday, she made a surprise concession, announcing the full withdrawal of the proposed extradition bill which sparked the demonstrations.

Protesters across the spectrum dismissed the gesture as too little, too late, saying their movement would only end once the remainder of their core demands were met.

"Our government continuously takes away our freedoms and that's why people are coming out," a 30-year-old protester in a wheelchair who gave his surname as Ho told AFP on Sunday. 

Analysts say it is difficult to predict what Beijing's next move might be. 

Under president Xi Jinping, China has become increasingly authoritarian and dissent is being stamped out with renewed ferocity. 

CHINA CHINA EXTRADITION BILL HONG KONG HONG KONG PROTESTS UNITED STATES
As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: September 15, 2019 - 3:31pm

Millions march in Hong Kong in a powerful rebuke of an extradition law feared to expose them to China's capricious justice system.

September 15, 2019 - 3:31pm

Pro-democracy protesters rally outside Britain's consulate in Hong Kong, demanding London do more to protect its former colonial subjects and ramp up pressure on Beijing over sliding freedoms.

Hundreds of demonstrators sang "God Save the Queen" and "Rule Britannia" outside the consulate, waving the Union Jack as well as Hong Kong's colonial-era flags.

The once-stable international hub has been convulsed by weeks of huge, sometimes violent rallies calling for greater democratic freedoms and police accountability. The movement is the biggest challenge to China's rule since the city was handed back by Britain in 1997 and shows no sign of ending, with local leaders and Beijing taking a hard line.

Under a deal signed with Britain ahead of the city's 1997 handover to China, Hong Kong is allowed to keep its unique freedoms for 50 years. — AFP

September 14, 2019 - 1:39pm

A Hong Kong activist urges US President Donald Trump to include a "human rights clause" in any trade agreement with China, and seeks Washington's backing for the city's democracy movement.

Joshua Wong, 22, calls on American politicians to pass a bill expressing support for the pro-democracy campaign during a speaking engagement in New York, a few hours after arriving in the United States.

"It's significant to add a human rights clause in the trade negotiations and put Hong Kong protests under the agenda of the trade negotiations," Wong says. — AFP

September 13, 2019 - 4:10pm

At the back of her tiny shop, Hong Kong baker Naomi Suen pulls out a fresh tray of mooncakes — each one sporting popular slogans from recent pro-democracy protests.

The cakes are a contemporary political twist on a gift traditionally given during the annual mid-autumn festival at a time when Hong Kong is convulsing with unprecedented unrest.

Bakeries at this time of year are packed with boxes of the dense pastries, commonly filled with a heavy sweet concoction of lotus seed and egg yolks.

The tops often have intricate Chinese character designs detailing the brand or the filling inside.

But Suen's mooncakes have different kinds of messages printed on them such as "Hong Kong People", "No withdrawal, no dispersal" and "Be Water".

All are chants heard on Hong Kong's streets in the last three months, as huge crowds come out to protest eroding freedoms after two decades of rule by Beijing. 

The last phrase — "Be Water" — is a reference to local kung fu legend Bruce Lee's philosophy of being unpredictable, a style the leaderless protest has adopted with relish during its frequent street battles with the police. — Agence France-Presse

September 13, 2019 - 12:53pm

One of Hong Kong's most prestigious sporting tournaments on Friday became the latest victim of the huge protests convulsing the city as a growing roster of events and entertainment acts pull out of the financial hub.

Organizers of the WTA Hong Kong Open women's tennis tournament said they were postponing next month's competition because of the "present situation" after months of sometimes violent pro-democracy protests.

"After extensive discussions with our key stakeholders, we conclude that a smooth running of the tournament can be better assured at a later time," the Hong Kong Tennis Association says in a statement.

Hong Kong's protests were triggered by alarm over a controversial bill, since scrapped, to allow extraditions to mainland China.

Millions of people have taken part in demonstrations over the last three months which have morphed into calls for democracy and complaints against the erosion of freedoms under Beijing's rule. — Agence France-Presse

September 10, 2019 - 2:31pm

Hong Kong's secondary schools have become the latest ideological battleground for pro-democracy protesters with thousands of students taking part in human chain rallies since the new academic year kicked off.

These human chain demonstrations in which pupils form long lines and chant slogans, are the latest way the city's youth have chosen to voice support for pro-democracy protests that have plunged the financial hub into crisis. — AFP

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