Hong Kong police fired tear gas Sunday at a public park 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 Chinese territory’s Legislative Council building. They held up signs that read “Free Hong Kong” and waved American and British flags.
A former British colony, Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997. While the framework of “one country, two systems” promises the city greater democratic rights than are afforded to the mainland, protesters say their freedoms have been steadily eroded 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 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The bill — which would have allowed Hong Kong residents to be sent to mainland China to stand trial — has since been withdrawn, but protests have continued for more than seven months, centered around demands for voting rights and an independent inquiry into police conduct. While the protests began peacefully, they increasingly descended into violence after demonstrators became frustrated with the government’s response. They feel that Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has ignored their demands and used the police to suppress them.