HONG KONG (The Straits Times/ANN) — Tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters gathered at Hong Kong’s Chater Garden in Central district near government headquarters on Monday for the first approved rally since a face mask ban came into effect on Oct 5.
The rally, which came a day after an improvised explosive device was detonated during unrest, was called in support of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, a proposed US legislation aimed at reviewing the territory’s special trading status and potentially sanctioning some Chinese officials.
Protesters urged Washington to pass the bill that would sanction officials who undermined people’s rights in the territory. The Bill passed through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee late last month.
Many of the rally goers, who were not wearing masks but donning black tops and in office wear, began chanting slogans like “It’s my right to wear a mask” and “fan gong” or anti-communism in Cantonese.
Riot police were on standby about an hour before the rally ended at 9.30pm. They started to clear the streets at around 9pm while hundreds of plain clothes protesters loitered in Central, still occupying roads despite police warnings to disperse.
In a statement, the Hong Kong government expressed “regret” over the assembly at Chater Garden.
The spokesman said: “Since the return to the Motherland, the Hong Kong government has been exercising ‘Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong’ and a high degree of autonomy in strict accordance with the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. The ‘one country, two systems’ principle has been fully and successfully implemented. Human rights and freedoms in Hong Kong are fully protected by the Basic Law, the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance and other legislation.”