A massive rally took place in Hong Kong on December 8th, to “celebrate” the half-year mark since demonstrations began.
The mass rally was one of the biggest since the protests began, with upwards of 800,000 thousands estimated by the organizers.
The city’s police force, which historically gives lower crowd turnout figures, told local media 183,000 people attended at the peak, still one of their highest estimates.
The rally was also conducted with police authorization.
Police allowed the Civil Human Rights Front to hold a march through the main island on December 8th, the first time the group has been granted permission since mid-August. But authorities warned they would have zero tolerance for violence by radicals.
The movement’s demands include an independent inquiry into the police’s handling of the protests, an amnesty for those arrested, and fully free elections.
“Our rally today is to gather everyone in Hong Kong to defend our city,” the CHRF said in a statement.
CHRF leader Jimmy Sham said that this march was Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s “last chance” to listen to the people.
Hours before the march was due to start, police displayed weapons, including a pistol and knives, they said had been found during overnight raids where eleven people were arrested.
In a statement released ahead of the march, Hong Kong’s government said it had “learned its lesson and will humbly listen to and accept criticism.”
The organizers had planned to hold the protest on the international Human Rights Day, December 10th and marks the United Nations’ adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
“Hong Kong’s human rights violations and humanitarian crisis are reaching the tipping point now,” CHRF said in a statement, calling on the city’s government to “uphold its commitment to Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all UN human rights treaties applicable to Hong Kong.”
The only escalation could be considered a small fire in front of the Court of Final Appeal. Hong Kong authorities released a statement in which they said the incident “not only disrupted social peace but also undermined Hong Kong’s reputation as a city governed by the rule of law.”
In a statement, the city’s government said it “hopes that members of the public, when expressing their views and opinions as well as striving for their own rights and freedom, can embody the tenets of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to respect others’ rights and freedom. All violent and illegal acts are contrary to the spirit of the Declaration.”
“From June this year until now, there have been over 900 public demonstrations, processions and public meetings,” the statement added.
“Unfortunately, many ended in violent and illegal confrontations, including reckless blocking of roadways, throwing petrol bombs and bricks, arson, vandalism, setting ablaze individual stores and facilities of the Mass Transit Railway and Light Rail, and beating people holding different views.”
The statement said that the government was willing to “engage in dialogues, premised on the legal basis and under a peaceful atmosphere with mutual trust,” and added that in the wake of the extradition bill crisis which kicked off the protests, it has “learned its lesson and will humbly listen to and accept criticism.”
This protest marks a de-escalation of violence for the third week in a row.
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