Dueling protests rattle Hong Kong in 10th week of unrest

18 Août, 2019, 00:27 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • Cathay Pacific’s Chairman John Slosar speaks next to chief executive officer Rupert Hogg during a press conference on the company’s half-year results in Hong Kong

Demonstrators backing the democracy activists in Hong Kong marched in London on Saturday, as counter-protesters staged a rival rally.

In Hong Kong, democracy activists kicked off a weekend of fresh rallies on Saturday in a major test for the movement following criticism over an airport protest earlier this week - and as concerns mount over Beijing's next move.

The protests began as opposition to a now-suspended extradition bill but have since grown to include broader demands.

Footage of Friday night's protests quickly spread on Chinese state media, where reports were favourable of the pro-China protesters who they said surrounded the pro-democracy demonstrators.

"The government has been ignoring us for months".

Amnesty International said: 'A wide range of direct contact electric shock weapons including electric shock stun guns, stun batons and stun shields have been developed, traded and employed by police and security forces throughout the world.

They also want the city authorities to implement universal suffrage and retract criminal charges against protesters.

The tenor of clashes has intensified this week.

On Tuesday, protesters blocked passengers from boarding flights at the city's airport and later assaulted two men they accused of being Chinese spies.

During the past week they have increasingly directed their frustration towards police, who have responded with fiercer determination to clear them from the streets.

A separate, pro-government gathering under the slogan "Save Hong Kong" has also been scheduled for Saturday.

Jack, an organiser of the Sydney rally who did not give his last name, said the aim of the event was to "promote peace and end discrimination". Reuters was not able to verify either estimate.

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Kowloon shops drew their shutters in anticipation of violence.

"Of course, we worry about safety as violence is escalating each time".

The flurry of unrest also presents one of the biggest challenges for Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012.

However, members of China's paramilitary People's Armed Police were seen marching and practicing crowd control tactics at a sport complex in Shenzhen.

On Friday, Cathay Pacific Airways replaced its chief executive after pressure from Beijing to suspend staff involved in the protests.

A growing number of Chinese state-owned companies are instructing their employees to avoid using Cathay for business travel.

"We all feel tensions are building and the level of stress is increasing", one front-line protester, Pun, 22, told Reuters during a sit-in at the global airport earlier in the week.

"I think the government heard the messages from the protesters loud and clear and is diligently racking their brains now for solutions", Li said. "I have thrown rocks. We're all slowly getting used to this".

Chinese armed forces are now practicing with giant "electric" fork devices that could potentially be used on Hong Kong protesters.

Having fired tear gas to disperse protesters in the streets, and at one point in a subway station, police are warning that they could get tougher.

After initially scrubbing any mention of the demonstrations from the Internet in June, Beijing has blamed the protests on collusion with "Western forces", before this week dubbing them "the beginning of terrorism".

The images damaged a movement that until then had largely only targeted the police or government institutions, and prompted some soul-searching among protesters.

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