Pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong geared up Friday for more rallies in defiance of a series of warnings from China and after a prominent independence campaigner was arrested. The semi-autonomous southern Chinese city has seen two months of unrest that was triggered by opposition to a planned extradition law but quickly evolved into a wider movement for democratic reforms.
Authorities in Hong Kong and Beijing this week signaled a hardening stance, including with the arrests of dozens of protesters, and the Chinese military described the unrest as "intolerable." But more protests was scheduled, starting on Friday evening, with members of Hong Kong's usually tight-lipped civil service due to hold a rally despite a government warning that they could be sacked for doing so. "Any acts to undermine the principle of political neutrality of the civil service are totally unacceptable," the government said late on Thursday. Medical workers were also called a rally for Friday evening and there are unsanctioned marches planned for Saturday and Sunday, as well as a citywide strike on Monday. Previous unsanctioned marches have quickly descended into violent clashes with police.
Hong Kong's police have increasingly adopted tougher tactics, including by this week charging 44 protesters with rioting, an offence that carries up to 10 years in jail. Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has made few concessions beyond agreeing to suspend the extradition bill, and she has made few public appearances. Protesters are demanding her resignation, an independent inquiry into police tactics, an amnesty for those arrested, a permanent withdrawal of the bill and the right to elect their leaders.