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Riot police break up Hong Kong rally for China's Uighurs

Police detain a man during a rally in Hong Kong on December 22, 2019 to show support for the Uighur minority in China. (Photo by AFP)

Hong Kong riot police break up a solidarity rally for China's Uighurs -- with one officer drawing a pistol -- as the city's pro-democracy movement liken their plight to that of the oppressed Muslim minority.

The initially peaceful rally descended into chaos when a small group of protesters removed a Chinese flag from a nearby government building and tried to burn it, an AFP reporter on the scene said. 

Organisers stopped the flag being burned but riot police then swooped in with pepper spray, sparking anger from the crowd who threw water bottles.

One officer drew his side-arm and pointed it at the crowd but did not fire. Multiple protesters were seen being detained. The rally in support of the Uighurs is likely to anger Beijing.  

China has faced international condemnation for rounding up an estimated one million Uighurs and other mostly Muslim ethnic minorities, in internment camps in the northwestern region of Xinjiang.

The emergence of a huge surveillance and prison system that now blankets much of Xinjiang has been watched closely in Hong Kong, which has been convulsed by six months of huge, and sometimes violent, protests against Beijing's rule.

Pro-Uighur chants and flags have become commonplace in Hong Kong's marches but Sunday's rally was the first to be specifically dedicated to the Uighurs. Around 1,000 people gathered in a square close to the city's harbour front listening to speeches warning that the Chinese Communist Party's crackdown in Xinjiang could one day be replicated in Hong Kong.

Many of those attending were waving the flag of "East Turkestan", the term many Uighur separatists use for Xinjiang, which has a white crescent moon on a blue background.

Others wore blue face masks displaying the East Turkestan flag. Flags for Tibet -- another restless region of China that has long been under a security lock down -- were also flown as well as Taiwan flags. 

(Source: AFP) 

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