|A pro-democracy protester with his eye covered in red-eyepatch, symbolizing a women reported to have had an eye ruptured by a beanbag round fired by police during clashes, participates in a march organized by teachers in Hong Kong Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019. Members of China's paramilitary People's Armed Police marched and practiced crowd control tactics at a sports complex in Shenzhen across from Hong Kong in what some interpreted as a threat against pro-democracy protesters in the semi-autonomous territory. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)|
Hong Kong democracy activists are hoping to get out a huge crowd later Sunday in a bid to show the city's leaders that their protest movement remains defiant despite increasingly stark warnings from Beijing.
Ten weeks of demonstrations have plunged the international finance hub into crisis and communist-ruled mainland China has taken an increasingly hardline tone, including labelling the more violent protester actions "terrorist-like".
Clashes have broken out between police and hardcore protesters but the movement has won few concessions from Beijing or the city's unelected leadership.
|Aerial photo shows people from all walks of life taking part in a rally to voice their opposition to violence and call for restoring social order, expressing the people's common will to protect and save the city at Tamar Park in south China's Hong Kong, Aug. 17, 2019. (Xinhua/Lui Siu Wai)/|
|Protesters carrying umbrellas take part in a march themed 'Recover Hung Hom' in Hong Kong, China, 17 August 2019. Hung Hom and To Kwa Wan are popular areas for low-cost travel tours from mainland China. The city braced itself for another weekend of protests demanding the full withdrawal of a now-suspended extradition bill as well as the appointment of a judge-led independent inquiry into police use of force on protesters since June. EPA/ROMAN PILIPEY|
|A Hong Kong anti-extradition bill protester attends a rally as pro-China counter-protesters also gather nearby, in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)|
|A protester holds up the US flag during an anti-government rally in Hong Kong, China, 16 August 2019. The goal of the rally is to drum up support from the US and UK for the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong. Hong Kong has been engulfed in protests since early June, at first to oppose the now-suspended extradition bill to China, that have developed into an anti-government movement. EPA/ROMAN PILIPEY|
On Tuesday, protesters blocked passengers from boarding flights at the city's airport and later assaulted two men they accused of being Chinese spies.
The images damaged a campaign that until then had largely only targeted the police or government institutions, and prompted some soul-searching among protesters.
China's propaganda apparatus seized on the violence, with state media churning out a deluge of damning articles, pictures and videos.
State media also ran images of military personnel and armoured personnel carriers across the border in Shenzhen, prompting the United States to warn Beijing against sending in troops, which analysts say would be a reputational and economic disaster for China.
In the aftermath of Tuesday's airport chaos, some protester groups apologised and vowed to hold a huge rally on Sunday.
Billed as a "rational, non-violent" protest, it is being organised by the Civil Human Rights Front, a group that eschews confrontations with police and was the driving force behind record-breaking rallies in June and July that saw hundreds of thousands of people hit the streets.
During smaller protest marches on Saturday ― which ended without the kind of largescale clashes that have become so commonplace each weekend ― many protesters chanted "See you in Victoria Park!" as they left the streets.
The park has long been used as the staging point for the city's years of democracy protests and will host Sunday's demonstration.
Police have given permission for the rally to go ahead but banned a proposed march.
Previous bans in recent weeks have simply been ignored by protesters and have soon led to clashes with riot police.
|Police officers stand guard outside Mong Kok police station during the 'Reclaim Hung Hom and To Kwa Wan, Restore Tranquility to Our Homeland' demonstration against the extradition bill, Hong Kong, China August 17, 2019. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu|
|Police officers armed with riots gear walk during pro-democracy protesters march in Hong Kong Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019. Another weekend of protests is underway in Hong Kong as Mainland Chinese police are holding drills in nearby Shenzhen, prompting speculation they could be sent in to suppress the protests. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)|
|A pro-China counter-protester shouts at Hong Kong anti-extradition bill protesters during opposing rallies in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)|
The protests were sparked by opposition to a plan to allow extraditions to the mainland, but have since morphed into a wider call for democratic rights in the semi-autonomous city.
Under a deal signed with Britain, authoritarian China agreed to allow Hong Kong to keep its unique freedoms when it was handed back in 1997.
But many Hong Kongers feel those freedoms are being eroded, especially since China's hardline president Xi Jinping came to power.
In the last two months millions of people have hit the streets while clashes have broken out between police and small groups of hardcore protesters.
Battles between police firing tear gas and rubber bullets ― and hardcore protesters using rocks, Molotov cocktails and slingshots ― have since become routine in a city once renowned for its stability.
Beyond suspending the extradition bill, Beijing and city leader Carrie Lam have shown no desire to meet key demands such as an inquiry into police violence, the complete withdrawal of the bill and an amnesty.
But protesters remain unbowed, despite the arrests of more than 700 people and 11 consecutive weekends of rallies that have won few concessions.
Beijing has turned the screws on Hong Kong's businesses, pressuring them to toe the line and condemn the protesters.
On Friday, Cathay Pacific announced the shock resignation of CEO Rupert Hogg after the carrier was excoriated by Beijing because some staff supported the pro-democracy protests.
A day later the "Big Four" accountancy firms scrambled to distance themselves from a advert placed in a newspaper purportedly by employees saying they supported the protests. (AFP)