September 28, 2019 / 1:38 AM / 19 days ago

Hong Kong protesters set busy schedule ahead of China National Day

HONG KONG, Sept 28 (Reuters) - Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters have set themselves a busy schedule for Saturday, rebuilding “Lennon Walls” of anti-government graffiti and marking the fifth anniversary of the “Umbrella” street movement that gridlocked the city for weeks.

Thousands of protesters rallied at the harbourside on Friday, chanting slogans accusing the police of brutality amid more than three months of often violent unrest in the Chinese-ruled territory.

That came ahead of the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China on Tuesday, when there are pro- and anti-Beijing protests planned across the former British colony, including at the British Consulate where protesters this month asked for help in reining in Beijing.

Protesters are angry about what they see as creeping Chinese interference in Hong Kong, which returned to China in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” formula intended to guarantee freedoms that are not enjoyed on the mainland.

China vehemently denies meddling. It has accused foreign governments, including the United States and Britain, of inciting the unrest.

Saturday is also the fifth anniversary of the start of the “Umbrella” protests, 79 days of student-led demonstrations in 2014 calling for universal suffrage that failed to wrest concessions from Beijing.

One of the most prominent leaders of those protests, the bespectacled Joshua Wong, 22, is expected to announce on Saturday he will run for local district council elections in November, his supporters said.

He is on bail after being charged with inciting and participating in an unauthorised assembly outside police headquarters on June 21.

Thousands of people are also expected to rally in the city centre on Saturday evening.

Protests are expected on Sunday to mark Global Anti-Totalitarianism Day, with solidarity events planned in cities across the world, including Paris, Berlin, Taipei, New York, Kiev and London.

But the biggest protests are likely to be on Oct. 1, marking the anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, with protesters saying they plan to use the holiday to propel calls for greater democracy.

Activists plan a mass rally from Victoria Park in the bustling Causeway Bay district to Chater Garden, a cricket pitch back in colonial days, home to the elite Hong Kong Cricket Club, in downtown Central.

Official festivities for National Day have been scaled back, with authorities keen to avoid embarrassing Beijing at a time when President Xi Jinping is seeking to project an image of national strength and unity.

The protests were sparked in June by a bill, since withdrawn, that would have allowed extradition of suspected criminals to mainland China. But they have since expanded into a broader pro-democracy movement.

The Lennon Walls are large mosaics of Post-it notes calling for democracy which have cropped up in underpasses, under footbridges, outside shopping centres, at bus stops and universities and elsewhere across the territory.

Some Lennon Walls of graffiti were torn down by pro-Beijing activists last weekend. (Writing by Nick Macfie; Editing by Kim Coghill)

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