HONG KONG (AP) — Thousands of schoolteachers in Hong Kong marched to the official residence of the city’s leader on Saturday as another weekend of protests got underway in the Chinese territory.
An overflow crowd rallied at a nearby public square before setting off on streets that had been closed to traffic, carrying signs that read “Protect the next generation” and umbrellas to ward off intermittent downpours.
The teachers tied white ribbons to a metal fence near Government House to show their support for the protesters, who have taken to the streets since early June and include many students. They said the government of leader Carrie Lam should answer the protesters’ demands and stop using what they called police violence to disperse demonstrators who have taken over streets and besieged and defaced government buildings.
“We want to protect our students, our youngsters, so teachers are willing to come out and speak for the youngsters, and also, to stand by them so they are not alone,” said Fung Wai-wah, president of the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union, which organized the march.
Protesters were marching through a district on the Kowloon side of Victoria Harbour, and a counter-rally backing the government was planned for later Saturday.
“Even though we’re all scared of getting arrested, we have to keep going,” said Minnie Lee, a 31-year-old logistics worker who was marching in Kowloon. “What we are fighting for is democracy and our rights. We’re not doing anything wrong. If we stop now, things will only get worse.”
A rally in Victoria Park has been called for Sunday by a pro-democracy group that has organized three massive marches through central Hong Kong since June.
The movement’s demands include Lam’s resignation, democratic elections and an independent investigation into police use of force.
China’s paramilitary People’s Armed Police has been holding drills this week across the border in Shenzhen, fueling speculation that they could be sent in to suppress the protests. Officers could be seen drilling inside a sports stadium on Saturday, and dozens of army-green armored carriers and trucks are parked in and outside the facility.
The Hong Kong police, however, have said they are capable of handling the protests.
“I can tell you we’re confident the police have the capability to maintain law and order,” Yeung Man-pun, commander of the Kowloon City district, said Friday when asked about the possibility of a deployment of mainland security forces.
Outside of Hong Kong, demonstrations were held in support of both the pro-democracy movement and China.
In Australia, at least 200 protesters descended on Sydney Town Hall, chanting “Long live China” and singing the Chinese national anthem, while a protest in support of the pro-democracy movement continued in Melbourne.
The Melbourne rally had turned ugly on Friday night, with police moving in to separate some 100 pro-China protesters from those sympathetic to Hong Kong. Saturday’s protest in the southern city was peaceful.
In Taiwan, people held a flash mob demonstration in Taipei, the island’s capital, in support of the Hong Kong protests.
Associated Press writer Ken Moritsugu in Hong Kong and videojournalist Dake Kang in Shenzhen, China, contributed to this report.