Protesters to return to HK streets
Thousands of pro-democracy protesters will rally on Hong Kong's streets Sunday for the first time since mass demonstrations shut down parts of the city for more than two months.
People take photos of an installation of paper umbrellas -- symbols of the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong -- in the Causeway Bay district of Hong Kong on Dec 14, 2014.
The afternoon march through central Hong Kong is expected to draw 50,000 people with police warning that attempts to reoccupy key roads cleared of a sea of tented protest camps in December "are likely".
No protest group has announced it intends to relaunch the occupation, however.
The march is set to gauge the public's appetite for the continued fight for free leadership elections, with authorities having made no concessions to activists' demands and tensions still high in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.
"The rally continues to call out to people to join the democracy movement," organiser Daisy Chan told AFP.
Officials in December cleared the final protest camps, which brought roads to a standstill with rallies that drew around 100,000 at their peak and saw violent clashes with police.
The demonstrations started in late September and lasted for more than two months, after years of disagreements over how the city's leader should be chosen in the future.
Chinese authorities have promised Hong Kongers the right to vote for their chief executive in 2017, but ruled that nominees will have to be vetted by a pro-Beijing committee, a proposal which has been heavily criticised by activists.
Chan said the rally would show that the Occupy movement, as the protests were known, was a political awakening for the people of the former British colony.
"In the past years, these citizens were less political than they are right now. The Occupy movement woke people up."
The original founders of the Occupy movement, including Benny Tai, along with teenage activist Joshua Wong and other student leaders will attend the rally.
"This march demonstrates to the citizens that the pro-democracy momentum is not dead," political analyst Sonny Lo told AFP.
But Lo also believes residents are exhausted from protests over political reform.
"At this moment the members of the public are tired of politics. The democrats have to strategise very carefully," said Lo, who is head of the social sciences department at the Hong Kong Institute of Education.
Police have requested march organisers provide 100 marshals, which the group feels is "unreasonable", saying police should be responsible for maintaining law and order.
Chan said marchers were not planning to re-occupy the streets on Sunday, but the police are nervous.
"It is believed that those supporting the illegal occupation are likely to seize the opportunity to reoccupy roads which have been now re-opened to traffic," a police statement said.
Hong Kong's government is urging the public to support the Beijing-approved plan.
The proposed electoral reform package needs the backing of two-thirds of the city's legislature to be passed. A vote is expected in the coming months.
Lam Woon-kwong, convenor of the Executive Council -- the Hong Kong government's top policy committee -- warned campaigners to accept Beijing's framework.
"You can't threaten the central authorities," he told a radio programme Sunday.
"If we can have consensus to have universal suffrage in 2017 first and democratise further later, it would be a more pragmatic approach," he said.
Protests in Hong Kong pre-date Occupy, with hundreds of thousands taking to the streets to protest over issues including an unpopular security bill, and tens of thousands at the commemorations marking China's Tiananmen Square crackdown.
Last July, hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated a month before Beijing ruled on the city's political reform.