Rival rallies as HK divisions deepen
Hong Kong democracy activists kicked off a weekend of fresh rallies yesterday in a major test for the movement following criticism over an airport protest earlier this week -- and as concerns mount over Beijing’s next move. The new marches came as thousands of pro-government supporters -- many waving Chinese flags -- gathered in a park to condemn their opponents and support the police, a stark illustration of the polarisation now coursing through the city.
Ten weeks of demonstrations have plunged the international finance hub into crisis, with communist-ruled mainland China taking an increasingly hardline tone, including labeling the more violent protester actions “terrorist-like”. Democracy activists are billing the weekend rallies as a way to show Beijing and the city’s unelected leaders that their movement still enjoys broad public support, despite increasingly violent tactics deployed by a minority of hardcore protesters that have cast a shadow.
On Tuesday, protesters blocked passengers from boarding flights at the city’s airport and later assaulted two men they accused of being Chinese spies. The images damaged a movement that until then had largely only targeted the police or government institutions, and prompted some soul-searching among protesters. China’s propaganda apparatus seized on the violence, with state media churning out a deluge of damning articles, pictures, and videos.