Hundreds march in Hong Kong as leader urges stability

HONG KONG (AP) — Hundreds of people marched in Hong Kong’s streets yesterday to mark a year since the start of anti-government protests, as the leader of the semi-autonomous city called for peace and stability.

“Everyone has to learn their lesson, including the Hong Kong government,” Carrie Lam told reporters. “Hong Kong cannot bear that kind of chaos, and the people of Hong Kong want a stable and peaceful environment to be able to live and work here happily.”

Lam did not elaborate on what lessons should be learned.

Hundreds of protesters marched in Hong Kong’s central district yesterday evening and shouted slogans including “Hong Kong independence, the only way out” and “Fight to the end.”

They marched despite police warnings that force could be used to disperse participants and that they faced up to five years in prison. Riot police later charged at a group of protesters, deploying pepper spray and tackling some to the ground.

Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of a huge march through central Hong Kong that grew into a pro-democracy movement that saw protesters break into the legislative building and take to the streets every weekend for months.

“The mass protest on June 9 last year has been etched in the collective memory of Hongkongers,” the Civil Human Rights Front, which organised the event, wrote in a Facebook post yesterday. “It also marks the beginning of our togetherness in defending our beloved city.”

Protesters also gathered in shopping malls to mark the anniversary at lunchtime, holding up signs and banners reading “Liberate Hong Kong” and singing protest songs. Police closed some streets and walkways ahead of possible protests.

The June 9, 2019 march was in opposition to a proposed extradition bill that would have allowed people in the former British colony, which has its own legal system, to be sent to mainland China to face trial.

Pro-democracy demonstrators march holding their phones with flashlights on during a protest to mark the first anniversary of a mass rally against the now-withdrawn extradition bill in Hong Kong. PHOTO: AP