Massive pro-democracy protests continued Sunday in Hong Kong, with more than 100,000 filling a central park and major avenues in the Chinese-ruled territory for an 11th consecutive weekend.
While the past two months have brought violent clashes with police and mounting threats of a crackdown by communist Chinese forces, Sunday’s rally was reported to be peaceful.
The Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post published photos showing protests gathering in the city’s central Victoria Park and flowing through streets along nearby Causeway Bay.
There was no sign of a major military crackdown, although fears had mounted throughout the past week that the ongoing protests could spark a repeat of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, as Chinese authorities have been positioning forces not far from the border of Hong Kong.
Sunday’s demonstrations came days after the semi-autonomous territory’s heavily trafficked international airport reopened, after being closed for three days when tens of thousands of protesters descended on the main terminal.
The protests have mounted since June, when hundreds of thousands marched to voice opposition to proposed legislation in Hong Kong that would have paved the way for people there to be extradited to mainland China, where they could face politically motivated trials.
More recent weeks have seen clashes between police and protesters, as well as with gangs of armed thugs targeting protesters. The demonstrations have also morphed into pro-democracy rallies, with reports of protesters chanting slogans favoring freedom and democracy.
Chinese authorities have accused American officials of meddling and fomenting the unrest to tarnish Beijing’s reputation at a moment when the U.S. and China are locked in a tense trade war.
The developments are being watched closely in Washington, where President Trump and his top aides have struggled to find the right tone in responding to the protests.
Mr. Trump was for once the cautious outlier through much of the past week, as lawmakers of both parties in Congress warned China not to crack down on the demonstrations.
Critics in Congress also took aim at Mr. Trump, who has been uncharacteristically muted in his response, although the State Department said Wednesday it was “deeply concerned” by reports that China was massing forces near Hong Kong.
Mr. Trump has told reporters he wants the Hong Kong standoff to work out for “everybody, including China.” On Thursday, he floated the idea that Chinese President Xi Jinping could settle the unrest by meeting personally with the pro-democracy protesters.
“If President Xi would meet directly and personally with the protesters, there would be a happy and enlightened ending to the Hong Kong problem. I have no doubt!” Mr. Trump said.
He added that Mr. Xi could settle the matter in “15 minutes” if the protesters sent their leaders to the table. “I know it’s not the kind of thing he does, but I think it wouldn’t be a bad idea,” Mr. Trump said.
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