Hong Kong is burning, five years to the day after Beijing dashed its hopes of democracy

Even though police banned a rally and a march to mark Aug. 31, 2014—the day that set Hong Kong on the path to the Umbrella Movement—Hong Kongers still took to the streets, facing water cannons and tear gas, and setting fires in the city’s business and shopping districts as they faced off with riot police.

It was Hong Kong’s 13th straight weekend of protests this summer, as the city edges closer to the five-year anniversary of the 79-day street occupation in 2014 that got its name from protesters using umbrellas to shield themselves from pepper spray and tear gas.

In 2014, Hong Kong was hoping to see reforms that would allow for the first time direct election of the city’s leader. The title—chief executive—gives away its roots as an appointed head of the territory under British rule, and as a pretty much appointed one after Hong Kong’s return to Chinese control in 1997. While there is a vote for the chief executive, it involves just 1,200 people who have themselves been elected in a byzantine way and are meant to reflect various political and professional sectors of society.

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