Hong Kong pro-democracy activists kept up the pressure on authorities on Saturday with a colourful “family rally” and a march staged despite police objections, as protests enter a third month.
The fresh demonstrations came after the financial hub’s chief executive ruled out concessions, and as Beijing and Washington stepped up a war of words over a US diplomat’s meeting with Hong Kong activists.
Beijing has taken a harsh line on the demonstrations but protesters remain unbowed, with a weekend sit-in at the airport also heading into its second day on Saturday.
Demonstrators across the city staged shows of public support for the movement, which began in opposition to a bill that would have allowed extradition to mainland China but has become a broader push for democratic freedoms.
Thousands of pro-democracy activists chanted for reform on Friday as they staged a sit-in at Hong Kong airport, hoping to win international support for their movement after two months of protests.
Activists, some dressed in the movement’s signature black, sat on the floor in the airport’s arrivals hall and held up signs in Chinese and English condemning police violence.
They cheered loudly as activists overcame objections from airport staff and hung a long banner from the railings of the upper floor reading “LIBERATE HK. REVOLUTION NOW.” The protests that began two months ago over a controversial bill to allow extradition to mainland China have now morphed into a broader movement demanding democratic reforms.
Protesters have staged increasingly inventive rallies across Hong Kong, and brought out supporters ranging from families to lawyers in a bid to show the broad backing for their demands.
But the demonstrations have also increasingly descended into violence, with police firing tear gas and rubber bullets and protesters hurling bricks and bottles.
The airport sit-in, scheduled to run throughout the weekend, is the second time the demonstrators have brought their message to the busy travel hub, hoping to garner support from international arrivals.
Protesters want to see the controversial extradition bill, which has been suspended, completely withdrawn, and are also seeking direct election of the city’s leader and an investigation into alleged police brutality.
Passengers arriving at the airport appeared confused as they came into the hall to see the sit-in, with some stopping to take photos or look at leaflets being handed out by the demonstrators. Some offered protesters a thumbs-up as they chanted.
The airport sit-ins have not been authorised, but a previous demonstration at the transport hub passed off peacefully without disrupting flights.
Further protests are planned across Hong Kong over the weekend, with fears that new confrontations between police and demonstrators are possible.
Hundreds of people have been arrested in the unrest that has gripped the city since the protests began, and with little sign that authorities plan to meet protester demands, the crisis is expected to continue.
The weeks of demonstrations pose the biggest threat to Beijing’s authority since Hong Kong’s handover from the British in 1997.
And the protests have hit the city’s tourism industry, with international arrivals down and hotel bookings tanking, officials say.
(With input from agency)