Thousands rallied in Sydney and Taipei to support Hong Kong democracy protesters Sunday, kicking off a day of planned “anti-totalitarianism” demonstrations globally.
In one of the largest solidarity marches in Australia since Hong Kong’s latest pro-democracy movement began in June, black-clad participants took to the streets chanting “Add oil”, a protest slogan denoting encouragement.
Some Sydney protesters held signs that read “Save Hong Kong” and “Stop tyranny”, while others carried yellow umbrellas or handed out paper cranes in scenes that played out in other major cities across the country Sunday.
Pro-China supporters stayed away, avoiding a repeat of the tense scenes that flared last month when opposing rallies held on the same day led to confrontations between the two sides.
Bill Lam, 25, who attended demonstrations in Hong Kong before moving to Sydney for study two months ago, said protesters had become “very desperate” and simply wanted authorities to respect “their basic human rights”.
“I came here but I want to support them from Australia,” he told AFP. “I feel so sad every night because I watch the live video (from Hong Kong) on Facebook and some social media.”
Frankie Lo, 47, said he had lived in Australia for years, but continued to care deeply about the situation back home.
“We still believe in one country, two systems, but they just have to follow the Basic Law,” he said, referring to the legal code that underpins the financial hub’s semi-autonomous status. “It’s not about independence.”
He added that besieged Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam should set up an independent committee to investigate allegations of police brutality.
“It’s something that we don’t want to see,” 25-year-old Tony Chung said of the violence that has featured in many of the summer protests.
“It’s Hong Kong people fighting against Hong Kong people, which doesn’t make sense at all.”
In Taipei some two thousand people, many dressed in black, gathered under torrential downpours outside parliament, the largest Hong Kong solidarity protest so far this summer on the island.
Protester Pan Hou-hsun, who said he was in his forties, portrayed Taiwan and Hong Kong’s fates as linked because both places fret about the growing assertiveness of authoritarian China.
“To protect a democratic and independent Taiwan, we are standing behind Hong Kong,” he told AFP.
Taiwan has been a de facto sovereign nation since the end of a civil war in 1949, but China still views the island as its territory and has vowed to seize it — by force if necessary.
Beijing stepped up its campaign to diplomatically isolate Taiwan after President Tsai Ing-wen’s 2016 election because she hails from a party that refuses to recognize the idea that the island is part of “one China”.
Tsai is seeking re-election in January.
Saturday’s rally in Taipei was largely peaceful although Hong Kong popstar Denise Ho, a staunch democracy advocate, had red paint thrown at her by an unidentified assailant as she spoke to local media.
Similar rallies are being held in more than 40 cities worldwide as part of a global day of action in support of Hong Kong protests.