DEFIANCE: Hong Kong protesters flood city streets for largest rally in weeks

A sea of democracy activists flooded the streets of Hong Kong Sunday under torrential rains in a peaceful demonstration to city leaders that their movement still draws wide public support, despite mounting violence and increasingly stark warnings from Beijing.

Hundreds of thousands of umbrella-carrying protesters poured across the heart of Hong Kong island, defying both the downpour and a police order not to march from a park where they had gathered earlier for a rally.
Weeks of demonstrations have plunged the financial hub into crisis, with images of masked, black-clad protesters engulfed by tear gas during street battles against riot police stunning a city once renowned for its stability.

Sunday's action, billed as a return to the peaceful origins of the leaderless protest movement, drew more than 1.7 million people, making it one of the largest rallies since the protests began about three months ago, according to organisers the Civil Human Rights Front.

It ended a weekend of protests that, as of early Monday, saw no major confrontations with police for the first time in weeks.

"It's been a long day and we're very tired, but to see so many people out in the rain marching for Hong Kong gives strength to everyone," said Danny Tam, a 28-year-old graphic designer.
Police said only that the approved rally in the park reached an estimated 128,000 people, not including those packed into the many surrounding streets.

The unprecedented political crisis was sparked by widespread opposition to a plan for allowing extraditions to the Chinese mainland.

But protests have since morphed into a broader call for democratic rights in the semi-autonomous city.


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