Hong Kong, Aug 18 (AP/UNB) — Protesters gathered outside Hong Kong's government headquarters have peacefully dispersed after fellow demonstrators urged them to go home.
Sunday's pro-democracy rally, attended by hundreds of thousands, concluded a rare peaceful weekend in the city, which has been beset by violent clashes between protesters and police.
Some applauded when the stragglers who had stayed out shining laser pointers at the government building retreated.
Organizers estimated at least 1.7 million people participated in the assembly and subsequent march in central Hong Kong. Police said there were just 128,000 at its peak in the assigned location. Many protesters, however, did not follow the pre-approved guidelines laid out by the authorities.
Organizers say at least 1.7 million people turned out for the latest pro-democracy rally in Hong Kong.
Civil Human Rights Front organizer Jimmy Shan says the figure does not include those who were not able to make it to Victoria Park — where Sunday's protest march began — due to traffic constraints.
The total turnout would make the rally larger than a massive march in June, when organizers estimated 2 million attended.
Police have not yet released their crowd estimates, which are generally much lower.
The organizing group said the protest was entirely peaceful, making for a rare nonviolent weekend of demonstrations.
Tens of thousands of protesters have occupied a major road in Hong Kong and are marching onward after a large public park could not contain the droves of participants.
Public transit trains were not stopping Sunday at stations near the assembly because of overcrowding.
While police had granted approval for the rally, they didn't approve an accompanying march. Demonstrators nevertheless fanned out and filled the streets, as there was not enough space at the designated assembly area.
Organizers said they hoped to have a peaceful event after past weekends were marked by violent clashes between hardcore protesters and police.
Hong Kong has seen mass pro-democracy protests for more than two months calling for electoral reforms and an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality.
Heavy rain is falling on tens of thousands of umbrella-ready protesters as they start marching from a packed park in central Hong Kong where mass pro-democracy demonstrations have become a regular weekend activity.
Protesters Sunday said they were determined to show the government that they won't be giving up on their five demands, which include the formal withdrawal of an extradition bill and an independent inquiry into police use of force.
Student Harley Ho says: "We will stand here, we will take action, until they respond to us. ... Together we have more power."
The 20-year-old says the inclement weather will not deter them.
While violent clashes with police have characterized rallies in recent weeks, organizers hope Sunday's assembly will show that "Hong Kong people can be totally peaceful."
People are streaming into a park in central Hong Kong for what organizers hope will be a peaceful demonstration for democracy in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.
Organizer Bonnie Leung said Sunday that "today is a day of peace" and that "we hope we can show the world that Hong Kong people can be totally peaceful."
Violent clashes between hard-line protesters and police have broken out frequently this summer in the hours after peaceful marches and rallies.
The movement's demands include the resignation of the city's leader, fully democratic elections and an independent investigation into what they say is police brutality against the protesters.
Leung says the police would be to blame if any chaos erupts.
A spokesman for China's ceremonial legislature has condemned statements from U.S. lawmakers supportive of Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement.
You Wenze called the comments "a gross violation of the spirit of the rule of law, a blatant double standard and a gross interference in China's internal affairs."
He says Hong Kong's 7.5 million people and Chinese population as a whole reject the actions of a "very small group of violent protesters" as well as "any interference of foreign forces."
You did not mention any specific lawmaker or comments, but numerous U.S. senators and Congress members, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have affirmed the U.S. commitment to human rights and urged the Hong Kong government to end the standoff.
Congress also has the power to pass legislation affecting Hong Kong's trading status.