Thousands of pro-democracy protesters march on New Year’s Day rally

Hong Kong’s protesters welcomed the new decade via a New Year’s Day rally, with tens of thousands joining a pro-democracy march.

Though the gathering was largely peaceful, violence broke out in some areas and police fired tear gas.

On New Year’s Eve, demonstrators had formed human chains that stretched for miles down busy shopping streets.

More than six months after the protests began, they gathered for midnight countdowns by Victoria Harbour.

Their chants included, “Ten! Nine! Liberate Hong Kong, revolution now!”

In the Mong Kok market district, some set barricades on fire. Police used water cannon to put out the fire, and fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protesters.

Some 40 parliamentarians and dignitaries from 18 countries sent an open letter to Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam on New Year’s Eve, urging her to “seek genuine ways forward out of this crisis by addressing the grievances of Hong Kong people”.

The anti-government protests began in June over plans to allow extradition to mainland China, but have since morphed into a broader movement demanding full democracy.

Some protesters have adopted the motto: “Five demands, not one less!”

Their goals are an amnesty for those arrested, an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality, universal suffrage, and for the protests not to be characterised as “riots”. The fifth demand – the withdrawal of the controversial extradition bill – has already been met.

Hong Kong was a British colony until 1997, but was then returned to Chinese control under the principle of “one country, two systems”. While it is technically part of China, the territory has its own legal system and borders, and rights including freedom of assembly and free speech are protected.

Some 6,000 people were arrested as a result of the protests so far.