Tens of thousands of protesters have braved the rain to come out for 11th consecutive weekend of mass demonstrations in Hong Kong.
Activists and police have clashed over the past 10 weeks, but this weekend’s rallies have so far been peaceful.
“We hope that there will not be any chaotic situations today,” said organizer Bonnie Leung. “We hope we can show the world that Hong Kong people can be totally peaceful.”
“Peace is the No. 1 priority today,” said Kiki Ma, a 28-year-old accountant participating in the march. “We want to show that we aren’t like the government.”
The protest organizers, the Civil Rights Human Front, were denied authorization for a march through the city, but police have allowed Sunday’s demonstration in Victoria Park.
Heavy driving rain did not dissuade people of all ages from attending, filling Victoria Park then spilling out to occupy major roads in all directions.
Though permission to march was not granted by the authorities, the sheer weight of numbers around the park has meant that activists had to move into Hong Kong’s streets spreading across eight lanes at a time.
The violence has intensified in the past few weeks, and police have frequently fired tear gas and rubber bullets.
Last weekend activists occupied the airport, leading to hundreds of flights being canceled. There were further clashes with police on Tuesday.
A former British colony, Hong Kong was returned to Beijing in 1997 under the framework of “one country, two systems,” which promised residents certain democratic rights not afforded to people in mainland China. But some Hong Kong protesters have accused the Communist Party-ruled central government of eroding their freedoms in recent years.
The protest movement’s demands include Lam’s resignation, democratic elections, and an independent investigation into police use of force.
Harley Ho, a 20-year-old social work student who attended Sunday’s rally, said protesters were undeterred by the rain and would not rest until their demands were met.
“We will stand here, we will take action until they respond to us,” she said. “In the rain, our spirit becomes stronger.”
The Chinese government hardened its rhetoric following the airport unrest, condemning it as “behavior that is close to terrorism.”
It was the second time in a week that Chinese officials have publicly likened the protests to terrorist activity.
Some observers believe that the repeated use of such language suggests that China is losing patience with the protesters and it signals that an intervention by Beijing is increasingly likely.
Thousands of armed police have been stationed across the border in Shenzhen.