Hong Kong protests mark 6-month mark with massive rally

Hong_Kong_Protests_76949 A miniature figure wearing artist Guy Fawkes mask and a sign reading "Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Times" is displayed during a rally against the use of tear gas by police in Hong Kong, Friday, Dec. 6, 2019. Hong Kong police have fired more than 10,000 tear gas canisters to quell violent protests that have rocked the city for six months. Its heavy and prolonged use in Hong Kong — one of the world's most densely populated cities and known for its concrete jungle of high-rises — is unusual and has sparked health fears.
Hong_Kong_Protests_71219 A protester holds a sign reading "Stop Tear Gas" during a rally against the police's use of tear gas in Hong Kong, Friday, Dec. 6, 2019. Hong Kong police have fired more than 10,000 tear gas canisters to quell violent protests that have rocked the city for six months. Its heavy and prolonged use in Hong Kong — one of the world's most densely populated cities and known for its concrete jungle of high-rises — is unusual and has sparked health fears.
APTOPIX_Hong_Kong_Protests_23941 Pro-democracy protesters flash their smartphones lights as they gather on a street in Hong Kong, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. Thousands of people took to the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday in a march seen as a test of the enduring appeal of an anti-government movement about to mark a half year of demonstrations.
Hong_Kong_Protests_50263 Pro-democracy protesters flash their smartphones lights as they gather on a street in Hong Kong, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. Thousands of people took to the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday in a march seen as a test of the enduring appeal of an anti-government movement about to mark a half year of demonstrations.
Hong_Kong_Protests_98213 Pro-democracy protesters hold American flags and flash their smartphones lights as they gather on a street in Hong Kong, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. Thousands of people took to the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday in a march seen as a test of the enduring appeal of an anti-government movement about to mark a half year of demonstrations.
Hong_Kong_Protests_38995 A pro-democracy protester wears a Guy Fawkes mask as protesters gather on a street in Hong Kong, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. Thousands of people took to the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday in a march seen as a test of the enduring appeal of an anti-government movement about to mark a half year of demonstrations.
Hong_Kong_Protests_02244 A masked couple walk by pro-democracy protesters who wave US and British flags as they gather on a street in Hong Kong, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. Thousands of people took to the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday in a march seen as a test of the enduring appeal of an anti-government movement about to mark a half year of demonstrations.
China_Hong_Kong_Protests_64426 In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, Hong Kong new Police Chief Chris Tang speaks to Chinese medias after watching a flag raising ceremony at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019. Chris Tang, said Saturday in Beijing that he'll adopt both "hard and soft approaches" for policing protests. He spoke to the media after his first meetings with Chinese officials since his appointment last month.
Hong_Kong_Protests_97124 Pro-democracy protesters take part in a march on a street in Hong Kong, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. Thousands of people took to the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday in a march seen as a test of the enduring appeal of an anti-government movement about to mark a half year of demonstrations.
China_Hong_Kong_Protests_19406 In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, Hong Kong new Police Chief Chris Tang, center, stands with officials as they watch a flag raising ceremony at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019. Chris Tang, said Saturday in Beijing that he'll adopt both "hard and soft approaches" for policing protests. He spoke to the media after his first meetings with Chinese officials since his appointment last month.
Hong_Kong_Protests_69696 Pro-democracy gather at Victoria Park during a protests in Hong Kong, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. Marchers are again expected to fill Hong Kong streets Sunday in a rally that will test the enduring appeal of an anti-government movement marking a half year of demonstrations.
Hong_Kong_Protests_49566 Pro-democracy protesters waves American flags and flags reading "Liberate Hong Kong, the Revolution of Our Times" during a protest in Hong Kong, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. Marchers are again expected to fill Hong Kong streets Sunday in a rally that will test the enduring appeal of an anti-government movement marking a half year of demonstrations.
Hong_Kong_Protests_30549 A pro-democracy protester holds an umbrella and a placard which reads "Five demands, adhere to the end" as they gather at Victoria Park in Hong Kong, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. Marchers are again expected to fill Hong Kong streets Sunday in a rally that will test the enduring appeal of an anti-government movement marking a half year of demonstrations.
Hong_Kong_Protests_14659 Pro-democracy protesters march on a street in Hong Kong, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. Marchers are again expected to fill Hong Kong streets Sunday in a rally that will test the enduring appeal of an anti-government movement marking a half year of demonstrations.
Hong_Kong_Protests_99310 Masked pro-democracy protesters march on a street in Hong Kong, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. Marchers are again expected to fill Hong Kong streets Sunday in a rally that will test the enduring appeal of an anti-government movement marking a half year of demonstrations.
Hong_Kong_Protests_89889 Masked pro-democracy protesters march on a street in Hong Kong, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. Marchers are again expected to fill Hong Kong streets Sunday in a rally that will test the enduring appeal of an anti-government movement marking a half year of demonstrations.
Hong_Kong_Protests_96694 Masked pro-democracy protesters march on a street in Hong Kong, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. Marchers are again expected to fill Hong Kong streets Sunday in a rally that will test the enduring appeal of an anti-government movement marking a half year of demonstrations. A placard reads "Thorough investigation on corrupt police."
Hong_Kong_Protests_25357 Masked pro-democracy protesters march on a street in Hong Kong, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. Marchers are again expected to fill Hong Kong streets Sunday in a rally that will test the enduring appeal of an anti-government movement marking a half year of demonstrations.
Hong_Kong_Protests_40020 Pro-democracy protesters carry countries' flags as they march on a street in Hong Kong, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. Marchers are again expected to fill Hong Kong streets Sunday in a rally that will test the enduring appeal of an anti-government movement marking a half year of demonstrations.
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HONG KONG (AP) — Almost hidden among the throngs of demonstrators who marched in Hong Kong on Sunday was one woman who crawled, literally on hands and knees on the rough road surface — an apt metaphor for the arduous path traveled by Hong Kong’s protest movement in the past six months.

Dragging bricks and empty soda cans on pieces of string behind her, the young woman elicited shouts of encouragement from fellow protesters. “Go for it!” they yelled.

“Her performance art is about the difficulty, or the repetitiveness, of demonstrations,” said one of her friends, who walked alongside and identified herself by her surname, Chan. “This is really a long-term struggle.”

And one that shows few, if any, signs of flagging.

Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators crammed into Hong Kong’s streets, their chants echoing off high-rises, in a mass show of support for the protest movement entering its seventh month.

Chanting “Fight for freedom” and “Stand with Hong Kong,” the sea of protesters formed a huge human snake winding for blocks on Hong Kong Island, from the Causeway Bay shopping district to the Central business zone, a distance of more than 2 kilometers (1 1/4 miles). It was one of the biggest rallies in months, and remarkably peaceful.

Crowds were so large and dense that the march ground to a standstill at times. Protesters spilled into narrow side streets, crying “Revolution in our times.” Organizers said 800,000 people participated, while police had no immediate estimate.

The demonstrator who crawled part of the route wouldn’t give her name. But her protest turned heads, gave pause for thought and raised the question: How much longer can Hong Kong keep up its push to preserve its freedoms that make it unique among China’s cities?

She offered this cryptic response.

“We have too much burden, but perhaps we have enough hope to make us go further,” she said.

Many marchers held up five fingers to press the movement’s five demands. They include democratic elections for Hong Kong’s leader and legislature and a demand for a probe of police behavior during the months of sustained protests.

Marchers said they hoped the huge turnout might help win concessions from the government of Chief Executive Carrie Lam. Protesters spanned generations. One man’s young son marched in his Spiderman suit.

“So many people are still supporting this movement. You can see how determined Hong Kong people are,” said demonstrator Justin Ng, a 20-year-old student.

“I heard a small kid yelling slogans — 4, 5 years old,” Ng said. “That really encouraged me because it’s not just this generation but future generations, too.”

Marchers said protesting has become part of the fabric of their lives since mass demonstrations erupted in June against a now-withdrawn government measure that would have allowed criminal suspects to be sent for trial in Communist Party-controlled courts in mainland China.

The protests have since snowballed into a broad anti-government campaign, presenting the communist leadership in Beijing with a major headache and battering Hong Kong’s economy.

Police in riot gear deployed in numbers on the edges of the march. Earlier in the day, they arrested 11 people and seized a cache of weapons, including a firearm with more than 100 bullets. Police said the suspects apparently planned to use the weapons during the protest to frame police, who have been accused of using excessive force against the protesters.

Violence was limited, with a bank vandalized and police reporting that gasoline bombs were thrown outside Hong Kong’s High Court.

Rally organizer Eric Lai had called for police restraint and for no use of tear gas.

“We hope this will be a signature for our movement after six months to show to Carrie Lam as well as to the world that people are not giving up. People will still fight for our freedom and democracy,” Lai said.

Authorities, who have liberally used tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets at previous demonstrations, say force has been necessary to disperse hard-core protesters who have battled riot officers, vandalized shops and thrown gasoline bombs. Police banned mass marches as protests turned increasingly violent, but relented and allowed Sunday’s march after a few weeks of relative peace.

The rally was called by the Civil Human Rights Front, a group that has organized some of the biggest demonstrations since hundreds of thousands of protesters first marched on June 9 against the extradition bill.

Chief among the protesters’ complaints Sunday was that police have been overly heavy-handed, making thousands of arrests since June.

“They are out of control,” said Ernest Yau, a 28-year-old consultant. He said the movement has brought Hong Kong together.

“We understand our common enemy,” he said. “We understand that we have to be united to fight against China, to fight against a government that doesn’t listen to its people.”

___

Associated Press videojournalist Katie Tam contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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