Hundreds of thousands of anti-government protesters joined a mass rally in Hong Kong on Sunday, filling major thoroughfares in heavy rain in the eleventh week of what have been often violent demonstrations in the Asian financial hub.
Hundreds of thousands of anti-government demonstrators rallied peacefully in Hong Kong Sunday, in sometimes torrential rain, for the eleventh week of protests - proof the movement still has broad-based support despite a police ban and recent violent clashes.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) 30-YEAR-OLD HONG KONG PROTESTER, KATY CHAN, SAYING: "We just want Hong Kong to stay Hong Kong, we're not demanding for something else or something extra." Protesters held signs with slogans including “Free Hong Kong!” and “Democracy now!” Some aimed green and blue lasers at police and government buildings.
Many chanted for the city’s Beijing-backed leader, Carrie Lam, to step down.
The massive turnout – which organizers said totaled a staggering 1.7 million people – was also the calmest weekend demonstration so far.
The protests began as opposition to a now-suspended bill that would have allowed criminal suspects in Hong Kong to be extradited to mainland China - but have been fueled by broader worries of Beijing’s creeping influence in the former British colony.
Demonstrators say they are fighting the erosion of the "one country, two systems" arrangement that allowed some autonomy for Hong Kong since China took it back from Britain in 1997.
Scenes of Chinese paramilitary troops training this past week in the city of Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong, gave a clear warning that mainland intervention by force is possible.
But many protesters say, they won't be deterred.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) VICE CONVENER OF CIVIL HUMAN RIGHTS FRONT, WONG YIK MO, SAYING: "I do not know what is enough.
All I know is they start to react because they (China) see the severity in Hong Kong that, even Beijing threatens to send armies so I think I will urge Beijing to really rethink before they take next action." The unrest presents one of the biggest challenges for Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012.