Hong Kong police fired tear gas at a public park Sunday that was overflowing with thousands of protesters calling for electoral reforms and a boycott of the Chinese Communist Party.
Sporting their movement’s trademark black clothing and face masks, rally participants packed into Chater Garden, not far from the city’s Legislative Council building. They held up signs that read “Free Hong Kong” and waved American and British flags.
Hong Kong police disperse today’s pro-democracy rally in Chater Garden with tear gas (first round fired at about 00:10 here) pic.twitter.com/5dNmPffYL8— Tara Mulholland (@tara_mulholland) January 19, 2020
A former British colony, Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997. While the framework of “one country, two systems” promises the territory greater democratic rights than are afforded to the mainland, protesters say their freedoms have been steadily eroding under Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Frictions between democracy-minded Hong Kongers and the Communist Party-ruled central government in Beijing came to a head last June, when proposed extradition legislation sparked months of often violent mass demonstrations.
The bill - which would have allowed Hong Kong residents to be sent to mainland China to stand trial - has since been withdrawn, but protests have continued for eight months around demands for voting rights and an independent inquiry into police conduct.
The Hong Kong police gave approval for Sunday’s rally, but not for a march that organizers also are planning.