Protesters in Hong Kong hold up five fingers as a sign of continued support for their five demands Dec. 8 in the largest action for greater political rights in months. Others carried large banners such as “Free Hong Kong.” The Civil Human Rights Front, which organized the march, said that some 800,000 people participated. Hundreds of marshals were organized to ensure there were no provocations during the huge procession.
The demonstration was the first to receive police permission since 1.7 million marched Aug. 18. The semi-autonomous city government, with the backing of the regime in Beijing, has been denying permits for larger protests while using riot police, tear gas and water cannons to break up smaller “illegal” ones. Confrontational tactics against the cops by a small minority has played into the hands of the authorities as well.
Two weeks previously, a landslide win for “pro-democracy” candidates in local council elections, in effect a referendum on mass support for the movement, showed majority sentiment against the government crackdown. One of the key demands of the actions is for direct elections for the chief executive and the legislative council by universal suffrage, instead of appointment by a Beijing-dominated committee. Other demands are for an inquiry into the police repression and the dropping of all charges against over 6,000 arrested protesters.
This popular movement is a serious political obstacle for Chinese President Xi Jinping as he seeks to tighten Beijing’s rule over the former British colony. The Chinese rulers are worried the sustained mass actions for political liberties in this Asian financial hub will become an example for workers and youth attracted to their struggles on the mainland.