Thousands of pro-democracy protesters gathered on Saturday in Hong Kong’s Mong Kok district for a protest march. On the other side of the city, pro-government supporters waved placards that read: “Give peace a chance.”
Hong Kong police warned protesters against deviating from an approved route for the pro-democracy march.
Authorities said they would intervene if protesters refused to comply with police orders, while the Chinese military signaled it was prepared to intervene if the situation becomes “intolerable.”
Not ‘police backup’
However, the editor-in-chief of the state-run Global Times, Hu Xijin, suggested a military intervention was unlikely.
“The (People’s Liberation Army) Hong Kong Garrison is a symbol of national sovereignty and cannot be regarded as Hong Kong’s police backup,” said Hu.
But that hasn’t stopped demonstrators from worrying about the rising use of violence against protesters by Hong Kong police.
“I’m a little worried about whether the police force might use violent ways on the demonstrators, because the route of the demonstration is a little bit narrow, and if we want to leave it might be difficult to get away from the police,” said one protester.
Hong Kong has witnessed historic protests over the summer. What first started as demonstrations against a controversial extradition law have blossomed into a movement fighting for expanded democratic rights and autonomy.
However, protests have started to turn violent, with police taking bolder actions to disperse protesters, including firing rubber bullets and arrest dozens of participants.
Earlier this week, Beijing said it supported police and city authorities, saying they have the responsibility to maintain the rule of law. “Violence is violence, unlawful acts are unlawful,” said a spokesman for the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office in Beijing.
Read more: Are Hong Kong protests a warning for Taiwan?
ls/aw (Reuters, AFP, AP)