Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators poured into the Hong Kong streets on Sunday in a mass show of support — marking sixth months of pro-democracy protests and highlighting the resilience of a people who continue to fight for their freedom and autonomy against the Chinese government.
Chanting “Fight for freedom” and “Stand with Hong Kong,” the protesters formed a mile-long human snake that winded through blocks from the Causeway Bay shopping district to the Central business zone. The crowds were reportedly so large that the group was forced to pause at times. Organizers said 800,000 people participated, although local police didn’t have an exact figure.
One of the protesters, however, was nearly hidden from view.
Pro-democracy protesters march on a street during a protest in Hong Kong, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. Thousands of people took to the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday in a march seen as a test of the enduring appeal of an anti-government movement about to mark a half year of demonstrations. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
A young woman was seen crawling on her hands and knees on rough streets — a metaphor for the arduous path and continuous fighting that pro-democracy protesters have faced in order to ensure their eventual freedom.
“This is just the beginning. We have a long way to run,” Louisa Yiu, an engineer and protester, told the Guardian.
The crawling protester also dragged bricks and empty soda cans on a string behind her — another metaphor for the weight they’ve been carrying — which excited fellow protesters who were heard yelling “Go for it!”
“Her performance art is about the difficulty, or the repetitiveness, of demonstrations,” said one of her friends, who walked alongside and identified herself by her surname, Chan. “This is really a long-term struggle.”
Marchers were captured holding up five fingers, a symbol for the protest movement’s five demands. They include democratic elections and an investigation into the actions of police throughout the last six months of protests, according to the Guardian. The belief was that the protester movement would cease over time as it enters the seventh month. It hasn’t.
Pro-democracy protesters march into the night in Hong Kong, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. Hundreds of thousands thronged Hong Kong streets Sunday, in a mass show of support for a protest movement that shows no signs of flagging as it enters a seventh month. (AP Photo/Dake Kang)
“So many people are still supporting this movement. You can see how determined Hong Kong people are,” Justin Ng, a 20-year-old student, told the outlet. “I heard a small kid yelling slogans – 4, 5 years old. That really encouraged me because it’s not just this generation, but future generations, too.”
The demonstrator who crawled part of the route wouldn’t give her name. But her protest turned heads.
“We have too much burden, but perhaps we have enough hope to make us go further,” she said.
A protester holds up a rain coat with protests slogans during a rally in Hong Kong on Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators crammed into Hong Kong’s streets on Sunday, their chants echoing off high-rises, in a mass show of support for a protest movement that shows no signs of flagging as it enters a seventh month. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
Police in riot gear deployed in numbers on the edges of the march. Earlier in the day, they arrested 11 people and seized a cache of weapons, including a firearm with more than 100 bullets. Police said the suspects apparently planned to use the weapons during the protest to frame police, who have been accused of using excessive force against the protesters.
Violence was limited, with a bank vandalized and police reporting that gasoline bombs were thrown outside Hong Kong’s High Court.
Rally organizer Eric Lai had called for police restraint and for no use of tear gas.
“We hope this will be a signature for our movement after six months to show to Carrie Lam as well as to the world that people are not giving up. People will still fight for our freedom and democracy,” Lai said.
A pro-democracy protester walks by a spray-painted advertisement as demonstrators gather on a street during a protest in Hong Kong, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. Thousands of people took to the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday in a march seen as a test of the enduring appeal of an anti-government movement about to mark a half year of demonstrations. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Authorities, who have liberally used tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets at previous demonstrations, say force has been necessary to disperse hard-core protesters who have battled riot officers, vandalized shops and thrown gasoline bombs. Police banned mass marches as protests turned increasingly violent, but relented and allowed Sunday’s march after a few weeks of relative peace.
The rally was called by the Civil Human Rights Front, a group that has organized some of the biggest demonstrations since hundreds of thousands of protesters first marched on June 9 against the extradition bill.
A statue on Statue Square is plastered with protest posters during a rally in Hong Kong on Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators crammed into Hong Kong’s streets on Sunday, their chants echoing off high-rises, in a mass show of support for a protest movement that shows no signs of flagging as it enters a seventh month. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
Chief among the protesters’ complaints Sunday was that police have been overly heavy-handed, making thousands of arrests since June.
“They are out of control,” said Ernest Yau, a 28-year-old consultant. He said the movement has brought Hong Kong together.
“We understand our common enemy,” he said. “We understand that we have to be united to fight against China, to fight against a government that doesn’t listen to its people.”
The Associated Press contributed to the report