Asia PacificNYTimes

Hong Kong Protesters Return in Force a Week After Vote Bolsters Their Cause

HONG KONG — After a relative lull in the protests, thousands of pro-democracy activists turned out Sunday for three demonstrations a week after scoring a major victory in elections that were viewed as a broad endorsement of the movement’s goals.

The vote last Sunday saw pro-democracy candidates win 87 percent of the seats in local district council races. The councils have little political power, but the vote — a rare form of popular elections in the semiautonomous city — was portrayed as reflecting widespread discontent with the government and backing for the protesters’ aims.

The demonstrations on Sunday were all granted “letters of no objection,” unlike the many recent protests that had been banned by the police. Activists have denounced such bans as unnecessary restrictions on freedom of assembly. While the first two protests were peaceful, a later one saw several tense confrontations between demonstrators and the police. Officers fired rubber bullets and more tear gas while protesters attacked shops in the evening.

The Hong Kong protests began in June over legislation, since scrapped, that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China, and have expanded to include a broad range of demands for police accountability and greater democracy.

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Thousands of protesters, many dressed in black and wearing face masks, descended on the harborfront district of Tsim Sha Tsui, chanting slogans such as “Five demands, not one less!” and “Hong Kongers, take revenge!”

After the Beijing-backed establishment camp was dealt a blow in last Sunday’s elections, Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, finally said the government was considering setting up a committee to look into the crisis. The move stopped short of addressing the protesters’ main demand of setting up an independent commission to examine how the police have handled the protests.

“Never forget why you started,” read a large, black-and-white banner at the march. Not long after it started, the police fired pepper spray and later tear gas at some of the protesters after warning them they had veered from the approved route.

A man who had been clearing roadblocks set up by protesters was struck “in the head by a hard object” wielded by another man, the police said in a statement.

Graphic footage circulating online showed the man being bashed by a long object and collapsing onto a roadblock in Mong Kok as blood trickled down his face, though he appeared to be conscious after being hit.

The barriers set up by pro-democracy demonstrators to block police movements have become flash points between these protesters and supporters of the government, with scuffles often breaking out when people try to dismantle them.

A Hospital Authority spokeswoman did not provide details of individual cases, but said two men who had been injured in the area were in stable condition.

Hundreds of parents brought their children to the march on Sunday morning against what many consider the indiscriminate use of tear gas by the police.

The marchers waved yellow balloons — the color of the pro-democracy movement — while young children stuck their drawings and handwritten messages for the police outside the government headquarters.

“Please don’t fire tear gas anymore, because besides making other people sick, tear gas will also make you sick and hurt animals,” one primary school student wrote on his note.

Separately, protesters waving American flags marched to the United States Consulate to thank Washington for passing the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which authorizes sanctions on officials responsible for human rights abuses in the city.

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