Thousands of demonstrators chanted slogans, sang the British national anthem and marched through a downtown Hong Kong shopping district yesterday in defiance of a police ban as shops shuttered amid fears of renewed violence.
A crowd of protesters in black and wearing masks, along with families with children, spilled into the roads of the Causeway Bay shopping belt. Some waved US and British flags, while others carried posters reiterating their calls for democratic reforms.
Police had turned down a request by the Civil Human Rights Front to hold the march, but the demonstrators were undeterred as they have been all summer.
The march disrupted traffic and many shops, including the Sogo department store, closed their doors.
As the crowd approached the police headquarters nearby, police raised a flag warning that they were participating in an illegal gathering, but protesters just shouted slogans and kept walking.
The protests were triggered in June by an extradition bill that many saw as an example of China’s increasing intrusion and a chipping away at Hong Kong’s freedoms and rights.
Earlier yesterday, hundreds of protesters waved British flags, sang God Save the Queen and chanted “UK save Hong Kong” outside the British Consulate as they stepped up calls for international support for their campaign.
With banners declaring “one country, two systems is dead,” they repeated calls for Hong Kong’s former colonial ruler to ensure that the territory’s autonomy is upheld under agreements made when it ceded power to China in 1997.
Many of the protest signs accused Britain of not doing enough to confront Beijing over its tightening grip on Hong Kong.
“Sino-British joint declaration is void,” one read, referencing the 1984 agreement that paved the way for the handover, a deal that Hong Kongers were given no say over.
“So far I’m quite disappointed by the fact that the UK hasn’t done anything to support us,” protester Alex Leung, a recent graduate, told reporters.
Many called for Hong Kongers who want to leave the city to be granted citizenship in Britain or other Commonwealth nations.
Some Hong Kongers were given British National Overseas (BNO) passports before the handover, a document that allows holders easy travel to the UK, but grants no working or residency rights.
“At least with the full citizenship, they can protect Hong Kong people from the Chinese government,” protester Anthony Chau, who holds a BNO passport, told reporters.
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