Thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators marched in Hong Kong Sunday in the first major protests since the December end of an almost three-month occupation against China’s plan to influence elections in the city.
Carrying yellow umbrellas – the symbol of the pro-democracy occupation movement – and chanting “I want universal suffrage,” the protesters walked peacefully through Hong Kong’s entertainment, shopping and financial districts.
Pro-democracy demonstrators occupied streets in key parts of the city for 79 days last year, demanding China rescind its plan to vet candidates for the city’s first election of its chief executive set for 2017. The Chinese and Hong Kong governments refused to make any concessions, and the final demonstrators were cleared by police on Dec. 15 with organizers pledging to continue their fight for open elections.
Hong Kong’s police removed barricades and tore down tents around government offices as a group of protesters prepared to make a last stand after more than two months of democracy demonstrations.
Police officers carrying shields advanced down roads and took down obstacles, while others sealed off the area after a final warning given by Senior Superintendent Kwok Pak-chung. The clearance will end 11 weeks of student-led protests, with China refusing to budge on its decision to control the nomination process for the city’s first leadership election in 2017. The focus will shift to the Legislative Council, where pro-democracy lawmakers have pledged to block the passage of the electoral bill without substantial changes.
The demonstrations, the biggest challenge to China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong since the city’s return in 1997, drew more than 100,000 people at its peak and led to several violent clashes with police. While public support has waned, the protests have raised the political consciousness of younger people, said lawmaker Claudia Mo.
Student leaders said yesterday they plan to broaden the struggle for free elections, and may seek to pressure government officials during public consultation meetings for the electoral reforms.
Full coverage of the Hong Kong protests by Bloomberg photos here.
Photographers: Lam Yik Fei, Billy H.C. Kwok/Bloomberg