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Hong Kong Protesters Stage Massive Rally

by Brian Padden October 04, 2014

Pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong staged a massive rally Saturday evening in the downtown business district they've occupied for a week, defying attacks by opponents and warnings by the territory's government to clear the streets by Monday morning.

The rally lasted for hours, as tens of thousands of participants clapped and cheered while a stream of speakers and singers addressed them and performed popular songs.

They gathered at the main protest site outside government headquarters after Hong Kong's chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, said earlier Saturday that "all actions necessary" would be taken so that workers could return to their jobs next week.

Saturday's announcement follows a second day of ugly confrontations between protesters and residents tired of the disruptions to their work and lives.

Throughout the day individuals or small groups of angry residents tried to instigate confrontations with the activists blocking roads and occupying major business districts.

One man yelled in Cantonese that while the protesters may say they want democracy, what they are doing is making the city chaotic.

Many residents are tired of the disruptions. Miranda Liu said she came to shop and got hit by protesters pushing a cart.

"And then they said we were disturbing them. Is this a peaceful place that you use your cart to hit me and then [insult] me?"

Pro democracy activists like Eric Cheung said they won't respond to violence with more violence.

"We want to show we are innocent so we raise our hands, that's it. We didn't do anything. We just stand here peacefully. We want to show our wants [intent] to the government, that's it."

Arrests, injuries

Hong Kong police arrested 19 people overnight in connection to the clashes, which are reported to have injured at least 18 people, including several police officers.

Security forces tried to maintain calm, breaking up fights and escorting the aggressive parties away from the crowds. Police officials said Friday they detained nine men with connections to the Triad crime gangs that were involved in attacks on the mostly student protesters.

Hong Kong's security chief, Lai Tung-kwok, Saturday dismissed claims that city authorities used the gangs against the protesters to try to get them off the streets. He called the allegations rumors and said they are completely unfounded.

Tens of thousands of mostly student protesters have occupied some of Hong Kong's busiest streets for more than a week, stifling traffic and business activity.

The protesters are calling for the resignation of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and demanding that China allow democratic elections in 2017.

The protesters called off talks with Hong Kong's government after violent clashes broke out with the opponents of the demonstrations.

The Hong Kong Federation of Students said authorities failed to intervene in 'organized attacks' on demonstrators in several main protest sites, including the Mong Kok neighborhood.

Fights broke out when hundreds of supporters of Communist Party rule attacked a protest site in Mong Kok, smashing tents and tearing down banners.

The protests mark the biggest unrest in Hong Kong since Beijing took control of the one-time British colony in 1997.

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