HONG KONG – Hundreds of people marched in Hong Kong's streets on Tuesday night to mark a year since the start of anti-government protests, as the leader of the semi-autonomous Chinese city called for peace and stability.
“Everyone has to learn their lesson, including the Hong Kong government,” Carrie Lam told reporters. “Hong Kong cannot bear that kind of chaos, and the people of Hong Kong want a stable and peaceful environment to be able to live and work here happily.”
Lam did not elaborate on what lessons should be learned.
Protesters rallied in a square in Hong Kong's central district before marching on nearby streets, shouting slogans including “Hong Kong independence, the only way out” and “Fight to the end.”
They marched despite police warnings that force could be used to disperse participants and that they faced up to five years in prison. Riot police one group of protesters, deploying pepper spray and firing pepper balls and tackling some to the ground.
Police said 53 people had been arrested as of early Wednesday for unlawful assembly, disorderly conduct and other charges. They said protesters blocked roads repeatedly and build barricades with traffic cones and other objects. Some protesters were also stopped and searched by police.
“Lawful protests are always respected but unlawful acts are to be rejected. Please stop breaking the law,” police said in a tweet.
Tuesday was the one-year anniversary of a huge march through central Hong Kong that grew into a pro-democracy movement that saw protesters break into the legislative building and take to the streets every weekend for months.