Tens of thousands of Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters have returned to the streets, calling for a general strike after the government failed to meet the demands of two months of protests.
The march brought the streets of Mong Kok, one of the world’s most densely populated areas, to a standstill on Saturday as shops and malls shuttered their doors by early evening in anticipation of possible clashes with riot police.
Elsewhere protesters built a barricade preventing vehicles from entering a cross-harbour tunnel from Kowloon to Hong Kong island, a possible flashpoint for violence.
Meanwhile, across the border, China is reported to have massed forces, raising fears the protests could be crushed as was Beijing’s pro-democracy movement by the Tienanmen Square massacre.
The protest movement began on June 9 against a now-suspended extradition bill that would have allowed for the extradition of suspected criminals to mainland China, but has escalated into a great expression of anger at the Hong Kong government.
Leader Carrie Lam has failed to meet any of the protest demands including that she step down and form an independent commission into police brutality. Protesters say they will carry on until their demands are met.
“We are not going to stop until we get an answer from the government,” said protester Sunny, who declined to give his surname due to possible professional repercussions but said he would consider striking.
He said the protests were fuelled by anger from the “last two decades” of the government’s failure to represent the interests of ordinary people.
Another protester, who declined to be named as he is a civil servant, said protesters were also upset about an incident that occurred two weeks ago, when police failed to respond to emergency phone calls as protesters were attacked by armed thugs at Yuen Long train station.
“It is clear the government is biased in dealing with protesters, especially the attack on 21 July in Yuen Long. Our police didn’t show up for 40 minutes,” he said. “That is totally unacceptable for our government, especially in Hong Kong.”
He also said many people from Hong Kong wanted to see a change in government with renewed calls for democratic elections.
“This time it is about the system. No matter the system provided to us most of (our leaders) have brought us tragedy,” he said. “I think this time many of us are asking for a new system.”
Separately on Saturday, a pro-police rally was held in Causeway Bay, according to the South China Morning Post. The theme of the rally was “‘Give peace a chance,” it said.