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Massive Turnout for Latest HK Protest  08/18 09:48

   HONG KONG (AP) -- Protesters turned Hong Kong streets into rivers of 
umbrellas Sunday as they marched from a packed park and filled a major road in 
the Chinese territory, where mass pro-democracy demonstrations have become a 
regular weekend activity this summer.

   Organizers said they hoped the assembly would be peaceful, which would make 
for a rare calm weekend in a movement that has been marked by violent clashes 
with police. Law enforcement officers were keeping a low profile, with no riot 
police seen from the procession's main routes.

   "We hope that there will not be any chaotic situations today," said 
organizer Bonnie Leung. "We hope we can show the world that Hong Kong people 
can be totally peaceful."

   Leung's group, the Civil Human Rights Front, has organized three massive 
marches in Hong Kong since June. The protest movement, however, has been 
increasingly marked by clashes with police as demonstrators vent their 
frustrations over what they perceive to be the government's blatant refusal to 
respond to their demands.

   "Peace is the No. 1 priority today," said Kiki Ma, a 28-year-old accountant 
participating in the march. "We want to show that we aren't like the 

   While police 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.

   Public transit trains did not stop at stations near the assembly because of 
overcrowding. The police and organizers had not yet released turnout estimates, 
but there appeared to be at least tens of thousands of participants.

   In Beijing, You Wenze, a spokesman for China's ceremonial legislature, 
condemned statements from U.S. lawmakers supportive of Hong Kong's 
pro-democracy movement.

   You called the lawmakers' 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 said that Hong Kong's 7.5 million people and the Chinese population as a 
whole rejected 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, but numerous U.S. senators and 
Congress members, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have affirmed the U.S. 
commitment to human rights and urged Hong Kong's government to end the standoff.

   Congress also has the power to pass legislation affecting Hong Kong's 
relationship with the U.S. in ways that could further erode the territory's 
reputation for stability and rule of law. That includes the recent 
re-introduction of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act in Congress, 
which would among its other provisions require the secretary of state to issue 
an annual certification of Hong Kong's autonomy to justify special treatment 
afforded to the city.

   More directly, President Donald Trump could simply issue an executive order 
suspending Hong Kong's special trading status with the U.S., a move that could 
have a devastating effect on the local economy at a time when Beijing and 
Washington are engaged in a bitter trade war.

   A former British colony, Hong Kong was returned to Beijing in 1997 under the 
framework of "one country, two systems," which promised residents certain 
democratic rights not afforded to people in mainland China. But some Hong 
Kongers have accused the Communist Party-ruled central government of eroding 
their freedoms in recent years.

   The protest movement's demands include Lam's resignation, democratic 
elections and an independent investigation into police use of force.

   Harley Ho, a 20-year-old social work student who attended Sunday's rally, 
said protesters were undeterred by the rain and would not rest until their 
demands were met.

   "We will stand here, we will take action until they respond to us," she 
said. "In the rain, our spirit becomes stronger."

   Members of China's paramilitary People's Armed Police force have been 
training for days across the border in Shenzhen, including on Sunday morning, 
fueling speculation that they could be sent in to suppress the protests. The 
Hong Kong police, however, have said they are capable of handling the protests.


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