Giant rally marks six months of Hong Kong’s democracy protests

Braving an unseasonal chill, protesters returned to Hong Kong’s central park on Sunday in their hundreds of thousands as the anti-government movement hit the half-year mark.

A sea of demonstrators, mostly clad in signature black attire, plodded peacefully along the six-lane main road from Victoria Park to the downtown business district.

Many chanted slogans and held posters denouncing the police. “Rotten cops are killers, rapists and gangsters!” they shouted.

Organisers estimated the turnout at 800,000, a sign that people power was still going strong after six months in the city of 7.4 million. However, police told local media that 183,000 people attended.

Two marches that each attracted about a million people in June forced Chief Executive Carrie Lam to shelve a controversial extradition bill that had initially sparked the protests, which have since evolved into a wide-scale movement for greater democracy in the semi-autonomous territory.

“We must remind Carrie Lam these still are a lot of people. We urge her to look squarely at this and seriously consider our demand for an independent commission,” said Jimmy Sham, one of the march organisers from the Civil Human Rights Front.

Although the extradition bill was formally withdrawn in October, public anger remains intense, driven by Lam’s refusal to address protesters’ demands – an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality; amnesty for the nearly 1,000 people charged with offences stemming from the protests; a retraction of the police assertion that protesters are guilty of rioting; and universal suffrage to elect the full legislature and chief executive.

Lately, Lam has promised to establish an independent review committee to examine the root causes of the unrest, but protesters have insisted police tactics in suppressing the unrest ought to be the main focus.