About 1,000 people were taking part in a Christian march through central Hong Kong on Saturday as a 13th straight weekend of pro-democracy protests got underway.
After gathering at an athletic field, they marched to a Methodist church and then police headquarters. The crowd alternated between singing hymns and chanting the slogans of the pro-democracy movement that has taken to the streets of Hong Kong for more than two months.
An online flyer for the demonstration called it a “prayer for sinners” and had a Christian cross and a picture of Hong Kong’s embattled leader Carrie Lam.
Authorities turned down an application from another group for a major march but were preparing for widely anticipated unauthorized demonstrations. They shut down streets and subway service near the Chinese government’s office in Hong Kong, about 5 kilometres (3 miles) west of the religious march.
“A public event is expected on Hong Kong Island this afternoon which may cause severe disruptions,” police said. “Text messages have been sent to alert members of the public to mind their personal safety.”
Saturday marks the fifth anniversary of a decision by China’s ruling Communist Party against fully democratic elections in Hong Kong.
Religious meetings do not require police approval, but police said late Friday that a procession with more than 30 people does.
The participants in the religious march were peaceful and mostly older than the younger protesters who have led this summer’s movement and, in some cases, blocked streets and battled police with bricks, sticks and gasoline bombs.