Tens of thousands of people, many wearing black shirts and some carrying British colonial-era flags, marched in Hong Kong on Sunday, targeting a mainland Chinese audience as a month-old protest movement showed no signs of abating.
Chanting “Free Hong Kong” and words of encouragement to their fellow citizens, wave after wave of demonstrators streamed by a shopping district popular with mainland visitors on a march to the high-speed railway station that connects the semi-autonomous Chinese territory to Guangdong and other mainland cities.
Hong Kong has been riven by huge marches and sometimes disruptive protests for the past month, sparked by proposed changes to extradition laws that would have allowed suspects to be sent to the mainland to face trial. Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam suspended the bill and apologized for how it was handled, but protesters want it to be formally withdrawn and for Lam to resign.
Organizers said 230,000 people marched on Sunday, while police estimated the crowd at 56,000.
“We want to show our peaceful, graceful protest to the mainland visitors because the information is rather blocked in mainland,” march organizer Ventus Lau said. “We want to show them the true image and the message of Hong Kongers.”
Chinese media have not covered the protests or their origins widely, focusing on clashes with police and damage to public property.
As the crowd broke up Sunday night, a few hundred remained and taunted police who had retreated behind huge barriers set up outside the railway station, while others moved to Canton Road, a street lined with luxury boutique stores. Around 11 p.m., police moved to disperse protesters who were blocking a road and arrested five people for assaulting or obstructing police officers, their statement said.
The march was the first major action since two simultaneous protests last Monday, the 22nd anniversary of the July 1, 1997, return of Hong Kong from Britain to China.
The march through central Hong Kong that’s held annually drew hundreds of thousands of people. It was overshadowed this year, however, by an assault on the legislative building by a few hundred demonstrators who shattered thick glass panels to enter the building and then wreaked havoc for three hours, spray-painting slogans on the chamber walls, overturning furniture and damaging electronic voting and fire prevention systems.