Thousands rally in Hong Kong as China slams U.S. support

HONG KONG — Protesters turned Hong Kong's streets into rivers of umbrellas Sunday as they braved heavy rain to march in a show of strength.

The latest in a months-long series of demonstrations was being seen as a measure of popular support for the pro-democracy movement, with recent rallies marked by violent clashes with police that have garnered increasing global attention.

The large turnout suggested the movement retains widespread support as it continues to push for greater freedoms amid Beijing's growing influence over the former British colony.

Frustration with a lack of progress and what protesters see as a heavy-handed police response have led to escalation, most recently after protesters occupied the city's international airport last week.

Some activists apologized after flights were canceled and clashes turned violent.

Organizers said they hoped Sunday’s assembly would be peaceful.

“We hope that there will not be any chaotic situations today,” said organizer Bonnie Leung. “We hope we can show the world that Hong Kong people can be totally peaceful.”Police had approved the rally, sending alerts to phones throughout the territory urging people to stay within the confines of Victoria Park.

The crowd seemed to draw its members from the broader base that characterised the movement's early mass protests. The mix of young and elderly, couples and families did not obey the police request, marching from the park to fill a major road in one of Hong Kong's busy shopping districts.

But the atmosphere was less charged after weeks of tense and sometimes violent standoffs with police.

"Hong Kong people, keep going," the crowd chanted.

RELATED: Police fire tear gas at protesters in Hong Kong

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Police fire tear gas at protesters in Hong Kong
Riot police fire tear gas during the anti-extradition bill protest in Hong Kong, Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019. Police fired tear gas late Sunday afternoon to try to disperse a demonstration in Hong Kong as protesters took over streets in two parts of the Asian financial capital, blocking traffic and setting up another night of likely showdowns with riot police. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
Protesters with protection gears face with riot policemen on a street during the anti-extradition bill protest in Hong Kong, Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019. Police fired tear gas late Sunday afternoon to try to disperse a demonstration in Hong Kong as protesters took over streets in two parts of the Asian financial capital, blocking traffic and setting up another night of likely showdowns with riot police. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
A man scuffles with riot policemen after he refuse to let policemen search his bag, in North Point neighborhood during the anti-extradition bill protest in Hong Kong, Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019. Police fired tear gas late Sunday afternoon to try to disperse a demonstration in Hong Kong as protesters took over streets in two parts of the Asian financial capital, blocking traffic and setting up another night of likely showdowns with riot police. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Protesters jump over MTR gates as they move to another destination during the anti-extradition bill protest in Hong Kong, Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019. Police fired tear gas late Sunday afternoon to try to disperse a demonstration in Hong Kong as protesters took over streets in two parts of the Asian financial capital, blocking traffic and setting up another night of likely showdowns with riot police. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
Protesters try to throw a tear gas canister into a drain as they face off with riot policemen during the anti-extradition bill protest in Hong Kong, Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019. Police fired tear gas late Sunday afternoon to try to disperse a demonstration in Hong Kong as protesters took over streets in two parts of the Asian financial capital, blocking traffic and setting up another night of likely showdowns with riot police. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
Commuters react from tear gas inside a MTR station as protesters face off with riot policemen on a street in Hong Kong, Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019. Police fired tear gas late Sunday afternoon to try to disperse a demonstration in Hong Kong as protesters took over streets in two parts of the Asian financial capital, blocking traffic and setting up another night of likely showdowns with riot police. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
Protesters with protection gears face with riot policemen on a street during the anti-extradition bill protest in Hong Kong, Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019. Police fired tear gas late Sunday afternoon to try to disperse a demonstration in Hong Kong as protesters took over streets in two parts of the Asian financial capital, blocking traffic and setting up another night of likely showdowns with riot police. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
A woman reacts from tear gas inside a MTR station as protesters face off with riot policemen on a street in Hong Kong, Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019. Police fired tear gas late Sunday afternoon to try to disperse a demonstration in Hong Kong as protesters took over streets in two parts of the Asian financial capital, blocking traffic and setting up another night of likely showdowns with riot police. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
Protesters with protection gears prepare to face with riot policemen on a street during the anti-extradition bill protest in Hong Kong, Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019. Police fired tear gas late Sunday afternoon to try to disperse a demonstration in Hong Kong as protesters took over streets in two parts of the Asian financial capital, blocking traffic and setting up another night of likely showdowns with riot police. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Protesters with protection gears prepare to face with riot policemen on a street during the anti-extradition bill protest in Hong Kong, Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019. Police fired tear gas late Sunday afternoon to try to disperse a demonstration in Hong Kong as protesters took over streets in two parts of the Asian financial capital, blocking traffic and setting up another night of likely showdowns with riot police. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Protesters use laser pointers beam at policemen during the anti-extradition bill protest in Hong Kong, Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019. Police fired tear gas late Sunday afternoon to try to disperse a demonstration in Hong Kong as protesters took over streets in two parts of the Asian financial capital, blocking traffic and setting up another night of likely showdowns with riot police. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Protesters use laser pointers beam at policemen during the anti-extradition bill protest in Hong Kong, Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019. Police fired tear gas late Sunday afternoon to try to disperse a demonstration in Hong Kong as protesters took over streets in two parts of the Asian financial capital, blocking traffic and setting up another night of likely showdowns with riot police. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Protesters face with riot policemen on a street during the anti-extradition bill protest in Hong Kong, Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019. Police fired tear gas late Sunday afternoon to try to disperse a demonstration in Hong Kong as protesters took over streets in two parts of the Asian financial capital, blocking traffic and setting up another night of likely showdowns with riot police. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Protesters with protection gears face with riot policemen on a street during the anti-extradition bill protest in Hong Kong, Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019. Police fired tear gas late Sunday afternoon to try to disperse a demonstration in Hong Kong as protesters took over streets in two parts of the Asian financial capital, blocking traffic and setting up another night of likely showdowns with riot police. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Protesters use water to put off tear gas canisters fired by riot policemen during the anti-extradition bill protest in Hong Kong, Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019. Police fired tear gas late Sunday afternoon to try to disperse a demonstration in Hong Kong as protesters took over streets in two parts of the Asian financial capital, blocking traffic and setting up another night of likely showdowns with riot police. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
A protester wearing a military costume waves a U.S. flag as they face with riot policemen during the anti-extradition bill protest in Hong Kong, Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019. Police fired tear gas late Sunday afternoon to try to disperse a demonstration in Hong Kong as protesters took over streets in two parts of the Asian financial capital, blocking traffic and setting up another night of likely showdowns with riot police. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Protesters use traffic cones to cover the tear gas canisters fired by riot policemen during the anti-extradition bill protest in Hong Kong, Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019. Police fired tear gas late Sunday afternoon to try to disperse a demonstration in Hong Kong as protesters took over streets in two parts of the Asian financial capital, blocking traffic and setting up another night of likely showdowns with riot police. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
A protester throws a tear gas canister fired by riot policemen during the anti-extradition bill protest in Hong Kong, Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019. Police fired tear gas late Sunday afternoon to try to disperse a demonstration in Hong Kong as protesters took over streets in two parts of the Asian financial capital, blocking traffic and setting up another night of likely showdowns with riot police. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Protesters use traffic cones to cover the tear gas canisters fired by riot policemen during the anti-extradition bill protest in Hong Kong, Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019. Police fired tear gas late Sunday afternoon to try to disperse a demonstration in Hong Kong as protesters took over streets in two parts of the Asian financial capital, blocking traffic and setting up another night of likely showdowns with riot police. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
A street is shrouded by tear gas fired by riot policemen during the anti-extradition bill protest in Hong Kong, Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019. Police fired tear gas late Sunday afternoon to try to disperse a demonstration in Hong Kong as protesters took over streets in two parts of the Asian financial capital, blocking traffic and setting up another night of likely showdowns with riot police. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
Riot police fire tear gas during the anti-extradition bill protest in Hong Kong, Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019. Police fired tear gas late Sunday afternoon to try to disperse a demonstration in Hong Kong as protesters took over streets in two parts of the Asian financial capital, blocking traffic and setting up another night of likely showdowns with riot police. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
A protester throws a tear gas canister fired by riot policemen during the anti-extradition bill protest in Hong Kong, Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019. Police fired tear gas late Sunday afternoon to try to disperse a demonstration in Hong Kong as protesters took over streets in two parts of the Asian financial capital, blocking traffic and setting up another night of likely showdowns with riot police. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Protesters use traffic cones to cover the tear gas canisters fired by riot policemen during the anti-extradition bill protest in Hong Kong, Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019. Police fired tear gas late Sunday afternoon to try to disperse a demonstration in Hong Kong as protesters took over streets in two parts of the Asian financial capital, blocking traffic and setting up another night of likely showdowns with riot police. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Protesters react with tear gas canisters fired by riot policemen on a street in Hong Kong, Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019. Police fired tear gas late Sunday afternoon to try to disperse a demonstration in Hong Kong as protesters took over streets in two parts of the Asian financial capital, blocking traffic and setting up another night of likely showdowns with riot police. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Protesters use traffic cones to cover the tear gas canisters fired by riot policemen during the anti-extradition bill protest in Hong Kong, Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019. Police fired tear gas late Sunday afternoon to try to disperse a demonstration in Hong Kong as protesters took over streets in two parts of the Asian financial capital, blocking traffic and setting up another night of likely showdowns with riot police. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
A riot policeman gestures as they face off with protesters on a street in Hong Kong, Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019. Police fired tear gas late Sunday afternoon to try to disperse a demonstration in Hong Kong as protesters took over streets in two parts of the Asian financial capital, blocking traffic and setting up another night of likely showdowns with riot police.(AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
A protester throws a tear gas canister as they face off with riot policemen on a street in Hong Kong, Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019. Police fired tear gas late Sunday afternoon to try to disperse a demonstration in Hong Kong as protesters took over streets in two parts of the Asian financial capital, blocking traffic and setting up another night of likely showdowns with riot police.(AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
Protesters throw tear gas canisters as they face off with riot policemen on a street in Hong Kong, Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019. Police fired tear gas late Sunday afternoon to try to disperse a demonstration in Hong Kong as protesters took over streets in two parts of the Asian financial capital, blocking traffic and setting up another night of likely showdowns with riot police. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
Riot police fire tear gas during the anti-extradition bill protest in Hong Kong, Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019. Police fired tear gas late Sunday afternoon to try to disperse a demonstration in Hong Kong as protesters took over streets in two parts of the Asian financial capital, blocking traffic and setting up another night of likely showdowns with riot police. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
Varios manifestantes sostienen carteles mostrando a manifestantes, personal sanitario y otras personas asistiendo a un activista herido, junto al mensaje "Juntos" durante una marcha contra una reforma de las extradiciones en Shum Shui, en Hong Kong, el domingo 11 de agosto de 2019. (AP Foto/Kin Cheung)
Manifestantes moviendo una estructura de acero para bloquear calles durante una protesta contra la reforma de las extradiciones en Hong Kong, el domingo 11 de agosto de 2019. (AP Foto/Kin Cheung)
Protesters and residents take part in the anti-extradition bill protest march at Shum Shui Po in Hong Kong, Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019. Separate protests were being held in two parts of Hong Kong on Sunday in a continuing series of demonstrations that have generally started peacefully but often ended in violent clashes with police.(AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
Protesters and residents take part in the anti-extradition bill protest march at Shum Shui Po in Hong Kong, Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019. Separate protests were being held in two parts of Hong Kong on Sunday in a continuing series of demonstrations that have generally started peacefully but often ended in violent clashes with police. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
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In Beijing, meanwhile, a spokesman for China’s ceremonial legislature condemned statements from U.S. lawmakers supportive of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement.

You Wenze called the lawmakers’ comments “a gross violation of the spirit of the rule of law, a blatant double standard and a gross interference in China’s internal affairs.”

Beijing has struck an increasingly strident tone over the protests in recent days, accusing foreign countries including the United States of fomenting unrest.

You did not mention any specific lawmaker, but numerous U.S. senators and Congress members, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have affirmed the U.S. commitment to human rights and urged the Hong Kong government to end the standoff.

President Donald Trump has largely steered clear of criticizing China over its response, though last week he did link the humane resolution of the protests to ongoing trade talks between the two countries.

Members of China’s paramilitary People’s Armed Police force have been training for days across the border in Shenzhen, including on Sunday morning, fueling speculation that they could be sent in to suppress the protests.

The Hong Kong police, however, have said they are capable of handling the protests.

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