Hong Kong protesters light up hills in festival-themed rally
Latest protests came hours after Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam promised to prioritise housing and people’s livelihoods.
Thousands of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong used torches, lanterns and laser pens to light up some of the city’s best-known hillsides in an eye-catching protest alongside an annual festival.
Using the mid-autumn festival as a backdrop that began on Friday evening, the protesters also formed a human chain in what was the latest demonstration in more than three months of sometimes violent unrest.
Carrying mobile phones and lanterns, the protesters lined the path running along the north face of the Victoria Peak, looking across the harbour to Lion Rock in the distance, with mainland China beyond.
The hill overlooks the sprawling skyscrapers of the city’s Kowloon district, one of the most densely populated places on the Earth.
On the mid-autumn festival day, families traditionally gather to gaze at the moon and eat mooncakes while children swing colourful lanterns from the end of sticks.
Protests also took place in other parts of Hong Kong, with people singing and chanting, in contrast to the violence of recent weekends when police responded with tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon.
“Today, there are not many here because we have an event in every district, and because this area is not a residential area. It’s a working area full of offices,” said Jason Liu in the Admiralty district of government offices and hotels.
The latest round of protests came hours after Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam promised to prioritise housing and people’s livelihoods to appease the deep-rooted discontent in the city.
Lam, who said she caused “unforgivable havoc” by igniting the political crisis and would quit if she had a choice, said in a Facebook post late on Thursday that her government would increase the supply of housing with more policies to be announced.
100 days of protests
The demonstrations started more than three months ago in response to a controversial extradition bill that would have allowed people in Hong Kong to be sent to mainland China for trial in the Communist Party-controlled courts, but soon broadened into calls for greater democracy.
While the extradition bill was scrapped last week, protesters say they remain concerned about economic issues, including the sky-high living costs and a lack of future job prospects.
Hong Kong was handed over to China by the United Kingdom in 1997. Since then, Beijing has been ruling over the city under a “one country, two systems” formula that guarantees freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland, including an independent judicial system.
China has accused the UK, the United States and other western countries of fomenting the current unrest.
Police have responded to protests with tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, water cannon and baton charges, as well as firing several live shots in the air, prompting complaints of excessive force.
Activists and analysts say the protests will end only when some of the key demands are met, including an inquiry into alleged police excesses, an amnesty for the nearly 1,400 protesters arrested, and universal suffrage.
There is little sign of Beijing ceding to those demands or the protests abating.
The Hong Kong police have rejected plans by the demonstrators to hold rallies this weekend, but protesters have ignored previous bans.
Hong Kong student groups have also called for a week-long general strike starting October 1, when Beijing will be celebrating the 70th anniversary of the founding of communist China.