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Hong Kong protesters throng streets peacefully in pouring rain

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REUTERS: Hundreds of thousands of anti-government protesters rallied peacefully in Hong Kong on Sunday, filling major thoroughfares under torrential downpours in the eleventh week of what have been often violent demonstrations in the Asian financial hub.

Sunday’s turnout showed that the movement still has broad-based support despite the ugly scenes witnessed in recent days when protesters occupied the Chinese-ruled city’s airport, a move for which some activists apologized.

It was the calmest weekend protest since the latest demonstrations against perceived creeping Beijing influence in the former British colony began.

“They’ve been telling everyone we’re rioters. The march today is to show everyone we are not,” said a 23-year-old named Chris, who works in marketing and was dressed all in black, including a scarf covering his face and baseball cap.

“It does not mean we won’t keep fighting. We will do whatever is necessary to win, but today we take a break, then we reassess.”

One protester shouted at others who were jeering at police, “Today is a peaceful march! Don’t fall into the trap! The world is watching us,” prompting the group to move on.

Late in the evening, some demonstrators were urging others to go home and rest.

Anger over a now-suspended bill that would allow criminal suspects in Hong Kong to be extradited to mainland China erupted in June, but the unrest has been fueled by broader worries about the erosion of freedoms guaranteed under the “one country, two systems” formula put in place after Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule in 1997, including an independent judiciary and right to protest.

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