Thousands march in Hong Kong on New Year's Day, commit to

HONG KONG: Tens of thousands of anti-government protesters began marching on Hong Kong on New Year's Day, demanding concessions from the city government while the civil unrest that convulsed the city ruled by China for more than half a year extends until 2020.

Gathered on a lawn in Victoria Park under a gray sky, young and old citizens, many dressed in black and some masked, carried signs like Freedom is not free before leaving.

It's hard to utter 'Happy New Year' because Hong Kong people are not happy, said a man named Tung, who was walking with his two-year-old son, mother and niece.

Unless the five demands are met and the police are accountable for their brutality, then we cannot have a really happy new year, he added, referring to the momentum of government concessions that includes democracy , an amnesty for the more than 6,500 people arrested so far, and a powerful independent investigation into police actions.

The pro- democracy march is being organised by the , a group that arranged a number of marches last year that drew millions.

Along the route, a number of newly elected pro- democracy district politicians mingled with the crowds on their first day in office, some helping collect donations to assist the movement.

The government has already begun the oppression before the New Year began ... whoever is being oppressed, we will be with them, said Jimmy Sham, one of the leaders of the Civil Human Rights Front.

Thousands of Hong Kong revelers had earlier welcomed in 2020 on neon-lit promenades along the iconic skyline of Victoria Harbor, chanting the movement's signature eight-word Chinese protest, couplet Liberate Hong Kong. Revolution of our Time., For the final eight seconds before clocks struck midnight.

A sea of ​​protesters emerged on Nathan Road, a large boulevard, blocking all the lanes in a spontaneous march that broke out within a few minutes of the new decade. Some had posters that said Let's keep fighting together in 2020.

During the night, the police fired tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons during some brief clashes.

China's President Xi Jinping said in a New Year's speech that Beijing will resolutely safeguard the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong under the so-called one country, two systems framework.

Many people in Hong Kong are angered by Beijing's tight grip on the city which was promised a high degree of autonomy under this framework when the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

Beijing denies interference and blames the West for fomenting the riots.

A group of 40 parliamentarians and dignitaries from 18 countries had written 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 protest movement is supported by 59% of the city's residents polled in a survey conducted for Reuters by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute.

Demonstrations have become increasingly violent in recent months, sometimes paralyzing the Asian financial center.

Protesters dropped petrol bombs and rocks, and police responded with tear gas, water cannons, pepper gas, rubber bullets and occasional live bullets. There have been several injuries.