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Huge Weekend Of Pro-Democracy Protests In Hong Kong Appear To Be Peaceful


For the 11th weekend in a row, the streets of Hong Kong were filled with hundreds of thousands of protesters. The authorities did not give permission for a march, there were also thunderstorms, and yet this was one of the largest demonstrations in weeks. The Civil Human Rights Front put together this rally. They estimated a turnout of 1.7 million people, though police say the number was lower. And we should note, this was one of the first weekends in a while without the use of tear gas.

NPR's Anthony Kuhn was in Hong Kong over the weekend and joins us. Hi Anthony.

ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: Hey there, David.

GREENE: So did yesterday feel like a turning point somehow?

KUHN: It really felt like a significant moment in this movement. As you know, the protests basically had been getting smaller and more violent, and by getting this turnout of nearly a quarter of the city's population, by the organizers' estimates, they reclaimed the sort of energy and mandate that only that size of a crowd can provide, and the police had no choice but to stand back. And the crowds made their points very loudly and clearly. One of those was anger at the police, which you could hear in their chants. Let's hear one of those.


UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting in foreign language).

KUHN: What they're shouting there is, crooked cops, give us back our eye. And they're referring to a young female medic who was allegedly hit in the eye by a projectile fired by police, although the police say they don't know who fired it.

GREENE: So lot of anger, but largely peaceful.

KUHN: That's right. The rally during the day was full of families, people of all ages. That ended at about 9 p.m., and most of those people went home. Then you were left with a sort of small core of rather militant young protesters, and they occupied streets in front of the government offices until some of them talked the rest into just going home, quitting while they were ahead. I spoke to one of these young protesters, and he just gave his first name Jay because he was afraid the police might come after him. Let's hear what he said.

JAY: And supposedly today, like, the consensus (ph) is it's for a peaceful demonstration, to show you guys that we can use force, and we can show you that we have the power to stop this city if we have to. But today is a demonstration that we don't have to. We have control of ourselves, and we as a people still stand by our opinion.

KUHN: So as he was saying, they've demonstrated that they can retreat as well as they can advance.

GREENE: Anthony, is the government appearing more willing to negotiate at any point here?

KUHN: The government has not been negotiating with the people, and that's the problem. The police have been given the burden of dealing with this, and they can maintain law and order. But as the police themselves admit, they cannot find a political solution to resolve the roots of these problems.

GREENE: OK. NPR's Anthony Kuhn reporting on the demonstration over the weekend in Hong Kong. Anthony, thanks so much.

KUHN: You're welcome, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Anthony Kuhn is NPR's correspondent based in Seoul, South Korea, reporting on the Korean Peninsula, Japan, and the great diversity of Asia's countries and cultures. Before moving to Seoul in 2018, he traveled to the region to cover major stories including the North Korean nuclear crisis and the Fukushima earthquake and nuclear disaster.