The region has been torn apart by six months of unrest following pro-democracy demonstrations and parades that were focused on eliminating an extradition bill that would have, if passed, enabled criminal suspects in Hong Kong be sent to and dealt with in China.
Protesters wear a mask featuring the face of former UK Consulate employee Simon Cheung during a petition protest outside the British Consulate General in Hong Kong on November 29, 2019 in Hong Kong, China.
Some of the young protesters waved American flags, a sign of appreciation after U.S. President Donald Trump this week signed into law bills that back the protesters and threaten China with possible sanctions on human rights.
Hong Kong protesters returned to the city centre in a peaceful rally after the city's pro-democracy forces won by a landslide in local district council elections in a rebuke of the government and its backers in Beijing.
"The government wants us to desert the front-liners and young protesters, but we will stick with them", said rally organiser Tam Kwok-sun, 64, to loud cheers from the crowd. After a Thanksgiving rally in the city centre on Thursday, weekend rallies include one on Sunday to show gratitude to the U.S. for introducing the Hong Kong legislation. But Simon Cheng says it was a forced confession and that he was tortured by Chinese police and pressed for information about Hong Kong's activists.
China denies interfering and says it is committed to the "one country, two systems" formula put in place in the Asian financial hub in 1997.
A local boys' band belted out songs to tell protesters that "the whole Hong Kong is supporting you".
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China is considering barring the drafters of the legislation, whose US Senate sponsor is Florida Republican Marco Rubio, from entering mainland China as well as Hong Kong and Macau, Hu Xijin, the editor of China's Global Times tabloid, said on Twitter.
Despite Trump's careful qualification of his signing, the bill's enactment drew immediate rebuke from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which accused the US of interfering with China's internal affairs.
"It's still a very early stage of the revolution", said a masked activist, who gave her name as Mai, 26.
Earlier Friday, police lifted their siege of Polytechnic University, a key earlier battleground with pitched battles between protesters and riot officers.
So far, the two sides have sought to keep Hong Kong and trade issues separate, said Tu Xinquan of the University of International Business and Economics.
"Starting from day one I have been involved in this movement and there is no reason to stop now", said Ko.
"My mum asked me to come and protect her. I think they need it".