August 04, 2019

Thousands take to Hong Kong streets as Beijing says protests must stop
Thousands again took to the streets on Sunday in Hong Kong to call for broad political changes as Beijing warned that it would not let protests persist.  A commentary run by Xinhua, China's official state news agency said the central government “will not sit idly by and let this situation continue." Two demonstrations snaked through Hong Kong, one close to China’s liaison office in Hong Kong, now heavily guarded after it was vandalised by protesters a few weeks ago.  Demonstrators called for people to join a citywide strike, an action that could paralyse the global financial hub of seven million. Volunteers distributed snacks like rice cakes and granola bars, as well as energy drinks and water to help the black-clad crowd fight the oppressive heat. A member of Hong Kong's medical sector attends a rally to support the anti-extradition bill protest in Hong Kong Credit: Reuters Some also stamped numbers for lawyers on protesters’ arms, in case they get arrested. A group also besieged the police station in Tseung Kwan O, shouting expletives, giving police graphic gestures and calling them “dogs” - Cantonese slang for police. Weeks of demonstrations have left Hong Kong facing its most serious political upheaval since the former British colony was returned to Chinese Communist Party rule in 1997.  Protesters first took to the streets against a now-suspended extradition proposal. But public anger has grown from protesters and residents alike over increasing police violence to disperse crowds.  Demonstrators have also expanded their demands to call for a formal withdrawal of the extradition bill - which would put suspects on trial in China where Communist Party influence contributes to a 99.9 per cent conviction rate - as well as direct leadership elections. “After all these protests, I think it [a strike] will definitely put pressure on the central government,” said Michelle Ng, 23, an office clerk. In response, Beijing has upped its rhetoric against protesters in recent days.  China’s Hong and Macao Affairs Office gave its first press conference ever last week, a sign that Beijing was under increasing pressure to respond to the continuing unrest after initially censoring mentions of it in the mainland.  Anti-extradition bill demonstrators drag traffic cones to block the main road at Central during a march to call for democratic reforms, in Hong Kong Credit: Reuters  The office warned, “if the turbulence continues, the whole of Hong Kong society will pay the cost.” A few days later, the head of the Chinese military garrison condemned protesters and said their actions “should not be tolerated.”  A propaganda video was also released of the unit’s troops practising anti-riot drills and charging at protesters amid a barrage of sniper fire, tear gas and water cannons. Sending in the military, however, would be a controversial move reminiscent of the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 when the Chinese troops opened fire on students protesters. Hong Kongers remain unperturbed by the growing tenor of threats, with many calling Beijing’s bluff. “The central government is just trying to show its power, telling everyone else that Hong Kong belongs to me,” said Ringo Lo, 21, a university student.  “We are not scared of the military.”
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