HONG KONG >> After a relative lull in the protests, thousands of pro-democracy activists turned out today 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 Nov. 24 saw pro-democracy candidates win 87% 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 today were all granted “letters of no objection,” unlike the many recent protests that had been banned by 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.
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 the Nov. 24 elections, Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, finally said the government was considering setting up a committee to look into the crisis.
“Never forget why you started,” read a large, black-and-white banner at the march. Not long after it started, police fired pepper spray and later tear gas at some of the protesters after warning them they had veered from the approved route.
The clashes continued into the evening, with officers firing more rubber bullets and tear gas, while protesters vandalized shops perceived to be friendly to Beijing.
Hundreds of parents brought their children to the march on Sunday morning against what many consider the indiscriminate use of tear gas by police.
Marchers waved yellow balloons — the color of the pro-democracy movement — while young children stuck their drawings and handwritten messages for 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 U.S. Consulate to thank Washington for passing the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.