Fresh mass protest held in Hong Kong against extradition bill, gov't
HONG KONG, NNA - Hundreds of thousands of people marched through Hong Kong on Sunday in an ongoing effort to push the government into totally withdrawing a now-suspended bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China.
Later in the day, a reduced number of demonstrators surrounded China's Liaison Office in Hong Kong, with some throwing eggs at the building and others spraying graffiti on its walls.
From around 10 p.m., riot police fired several rounds of tear gas to disperse protestors lingering near Central district. The protesters hurled bricks, umbrellas among other debris at the police.
A lawmaker, Alvin Yeung, who arrived at the scene pleaded in vain with the police to give the protestors time leave the area, according to media reports.
Earlier in the day, protesters chanted “No extradition to China!” as they marched in the sweltering heat during the main march that kicked off in the afternoon. They also called for Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam to step down and the implementation of democratic reforms.
The organizer said 430,000 took part, while the police estimated the turnout at 138,000.
Millions of people have been drawn to mass protests in recent weeks against the bill, which could arguably undermine the judicial independence of the former British colony, which returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
“The government is not being fair towards Hong Kong people,” said Andy Tsoi, a 32-year-old architect. “Instead, it is busy executing orders from Beijing. If the bill is passed, it will become a tool of suppression for the Chinese authorities.”
Retired trucker Billy Lo, 73, voiced understanding of young people getting “so angry” over the current political situation.
“Their pay will never cover the sky-high housing costs. Hong Kong people are fighting a losing battle against the communists, but we will persevere,” he said.
Besides the complete withdrawal of the bill, the crowd also called for an independent probe into allegations of police brutality, a pardon for all protesters previously arrested, the holding of democratic elections, and for the government to stop referring to the protests as a riot.
After massing at the government complex, the scheduled end point of the march, thousands of the demonstrators marched onward to the Central Government Liaison Office to protest China's erosion of Hong Kong's freedoms, chanting “Revolt now! Reclaim Hong Kong!”
The crowd used metal railings to build makeshift roadblocks, stopping traffic surrounding the liaison office and a nearby police station. Most of them retreated from the office shortly before the police took any measures in response.
Local media reported that protestors sprayed the national emblem on the office with black paint.
The liaison office issued a comment condemning the protestors' behavior as “acts that publicly challenge the authority of the central government.”
It added that they are challenging the baseline of the “one country, two systems” framework and the authority of the central government and that the office staunchly supports the Hong Kong government and the police to punish those in accordance with the law to safeguard the society's stability.
Lam, who spearheaded the amendment bill, had suspended the legislative process and further declared it “dead” in a failing bid to quell public anger.
She has avoided public appearances except for a couple of press briefings where she lashed out at violence against police by “rioters.”
While most of the past protests were peaceful, some have turned violent with protesters clashing with riot police, leading to scores of injuries and dozens of arrests.
Public opinion has until now shown a certain level of understanding towards the mainly young people taking part in the ongoing series of protests. However, a further heightening of their outrage risks a reversal of public sentiment.