Thousands of Hong Kong residents, including many teachers, took part in more anti-government rallies on Saturday, braving thunderstorms to march past shops shuttered due to growing concern that police could adopt tougher tactics to drive them from the streets.
Following an escalation in violence, the rallies this weekend are a key test of whether the protest movement can retain the broad support that it has appeared to enjoy. The peaceful turnout suggested it may, though the protests turned more confrontational by night.
The protests began as opposition to a now-suspended extradition bill but have since grown to include broader demands. Demonstrators say they are fighting the erosion of the 'one country, two systems' arrangement that enshrined some autonomy for Hong Kong since China took it back from Britain in 1997.
'The government has been ignoring us for months. We have to keep demonstrating,' said CS Chan, a maths teacher at a rally.
Yu (40) and a music teacher at a local school, said she was determined to show support for protesting students, even though she didn’t agree with all their actions 'I do appreciate their courage and caring, they are definitely braver than our government.'
The tenor of clashes has intensified this week as tousands of flights were cancelled amid ugly scenes at the city’s airport, when protesters set upon men they suspected were Chinese agents.
After gathering peacefully in the Central business district, the teachers marched on the embattled leader, Ms. Carrie Lam.
'If Carrie bothered to respond to our demands at the very beginning, nobody would get hurt,' said a retired primary school teacher.
Anti-government demonstrators also marched through Kowloon - the main built up area on the mainland side of Hong Kong harbour, while pro-police demonstrators turned out briefly on the other side of the bay, waving Chinese flags. Organisers of a pro-police counter-rally said 300,000 people turned out, while police put the number at 108,000.