Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters were planning to rebuild “Lennon Walls” of anti-government graffiti on Saturday as they mark the fifth anniversary of the “Umbrella” street movement that gridlocked the Chinese-ruled city for weeks.
A series of pro- and anti-Beijing protests is planned ahead of the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China on Tuesday, including at the consulate of former colonial power Britain.
Anti-government protesters have attacked the legislature, Beijing’s main Liaison Office, occupied the airport, thrown petrol bombs at police, vandalized metro stations and set street fires in more than three months of unrest.
Police have responded with tear gas, water cannon, rubber bullets and occasional live rounds fired into the air.
“They are not our children,” China supporter Yau Mei-kwang said of the frontline activists. “Because at this age, they should be studying, not running to the airport, hitting people, hitting the police, insulting people. That is not right.”
A pro-democracy protester who only gave his name as Wong defended the use of violence.
“We know that they will not listen if we rally in peace because we are not on the same level,” he said.
The anti-government protesters are angry about what they see as creeping Chinese interference in Hong Kong, which returned to China in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” formula intended to guarantee freedoms that are not enjoyed on the mainland.
China vehemently denies meddling. It has accused foreign governments, including the United States and Britain, of fanning the unrest.
Protesters appealed to the British two weeks ago to rein in China and ensure it respects the city’s freedoms.
Britain says it has a legal responsibility to ensure China abides by the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, which lays out the “one country, two systems” arrangement.
At the same time, it is pinning its hopes on closer trade and investment cooperation with China, which since 1997 has risen to become the world’s second-largest economy, after it leaves the European Union at the end of October.