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Protesters gather in Hong Kong a year since mass rallies

28 september 2015, 16:13
0

Protesters are due to gather once more in Hong Kong on Monday, a year since the start of huge pro-democracy rallies that brought parts of the city to a standstill, AFP reports.

But with no concessions on political reform from authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong, campaigners, disheartened by a lack of progress, say they do not plan to start more mass demonstrations.

Monday's events are instead billed as a time for reflection as activists try to develop strategies to breathe new life into a movement which has lost momentum.

Occupy Central was launched a year ago, calling for fully free leadership elections in the semi-autonomous city, following more than a week of student protests.

Thousands joined the already large crowds after police fired tear gas in the afternoon of September 28, a move that shocked the public and galvanised the Umbrella Movement -- named after the umbrellas protesters carried to shelter from sun, rain, tear gas and pepper spray.

For more than two months the centre of the city became an entrenched rally camp.

On Monday, activists will first gather at midday at the "Lennon Wall" -- an outdoor staircase near the government headquarters that was plastered with thousands of multi-coloured paper notes expressing support during the protests.

It was at the heart of the sprawling protest site in Admiralty district, where the main pro-democracy rally will take place later Monday afternoon.

There will be a moment of silence at 5:58 pm (0958 GMT) -- the time when the tear gas was fired.

Pro-Beijing groups are also due to march in two central areas of Hong Kong Monday afternoon.

Police will deploy 3,000 officers, the South China Morning Post reported, citing unnamed police sources.

  Activists detained 

Rally organisers have not given estimates for turnout numbers, but commemorative events held over the weekend drew small crowds.

Those who attended voiced belief in the pro-democracy cause.

"This commemoration is not only to mark the event but also to show that Hongkongers will continue down this path," said 21-year-old university student Catherine Shek.

"The movement is going through a state of rising and falling, with many people trying different types of methods."

University student Law Kin-wai, 18, added that the movement inspired young people.

"It's made many students and other people more interested in taking part in the movement in the future," he told AFP.

The protests began after China's central government claimed it was offering a compromise of sorts by allowing a popular vote for Hong Kong's leader in 2017 but insisted candidates were vetted.

The electoral package was voted down in June by pro-democracy lawmakers unhappy with the restrictions, leaving the territory with its existing system where the leader is chosen by a pro-Beijing election committee.

Hong Kong has been governed under a "one country, two systems" arrangement since it was handed back to China by Britain in 1997.

It allows far greater civil liberties than on the Chinese mainland, but there are growing fears those freedoms are being eroded.

Amnesty International called Monday for Beijing to release eight mainland activists detained for supporting last year's protests.

Their support included posting messages and pictures online and holding banners in public with messages, Amnesty said.

It comes after Human Rights Watch last week called for an "independent and thorough investigation" into the Hong Kong government's handling of the Umbrella Movement.

A number of the city's activists are facing court cases over the protests while police officers involved in beating a protester have yet to be prosecuted.


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