Hong Kong (dpa) - More than 4,000 Hong Kongers endured rain and humid weather Sunday, the anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, to protest a decline in political freedoms and the jailing of pro-democracy activists.
The protest march made its way from the city's main shopping district in Causeway Bay to the government headquarters, with many demonstrators calling for the resignation of Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen.
In August, Yuen pushed for a sentence review of pro-democracy activists Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Agnes Chow, which resulted in jail time for the three prominent figures of the 2014 Umbrella Movement.
“We are here to tell this authoritarian regime that we are not taking it lying down, we have not forgotten about the promise that we are supposed to have honoured containing the Basic Law,” said Alan Leung, chairman of the pro-democratic Civic Party, referring to Hong Kong’s constitutional document.
A University of Hong Kong public opinion survey found that, since August, Yuen’s popularity has dropped by 18 per cent.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam, the head of Hong Kong’s government, has also seen her popularity fall to a "record low" of 47 per cent since assuming office on July 1, according to another survey released September 26.
Hong Kong has been a special administrative region of China since 1997 under the “one country, two systems” arrangement, which allows the territory of Hong Kong greater economic and political freedom than mainland China until 2047.
Many Hong Kongers, however, have bristled at what they see as increasing interference from Beijing in local affairs in recent years, and regularly demonstrate on October 1, known as the National Day of China.
Protester Arrie Cheung said she disagreed with “many policies from the government” and how they “now they encourage the Chinese [to get] involved a lot in our politics.”
A pro-independence group of around 20 people was also present at the protest, carrying Hong Kong’s colonial flag and calling for its independence from Beijing.
“We don’t want Hong Kong to become part of China because in China there is too much corruption,” said Ronald Leung, a member of the group.
According to data from Hong Kong police, 4,300 people attended the protest at its peak.