Hundreds of thousands of people have marched in Hong Kong on Sunday, to oppose a controversial extradition bill that would enable China to extradite fugitives from the city. After it ended, clashes erupted between hundreds of demonstrators and police.
The huge march stretched for more than two miles. Hong Kong Police estimated the number of protesters closer to 240,000. It is the biggest march in more than 20 years.
This march was peaceful until midnight when police and demonstrators clashed after attempts to disperse some remaining protesters from the area outside the legislative offices.
Protesters, some wearing surgical masks, tried to break into the Legislative Council complex, throwing crowd control barriers around, and police in riot gear used batons and pepper spray. Some of the protesters and policemen were later seen with faces covered in blood.
The controversial extradition bill would allow suspected criminals to be sent to mainland China for trial.
Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam has promised to move forward with a controversial extradition bill that it is feared could be used by China to make critics “disappear”.
Lam maintained that the widespread opposition to the bill – which included thousands of lawyers and judges – was just because people did not understand it.
“This bill is not initiated by the Central People’s government. I have not received any instruction,” she said.
Lam refused to withdraw the bill, saying: “Hong Kong has to move on, nobody wants Hong Kong to be a fugitive offenders haven.”
“We are doing it.”
Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, the second most senior member of Hong Kong’s government, said the debate on the bill would resume on Wednesday and he hoped it would be “rational and peaceful”.
“A small group of radical protesters took radical actions and charged the police, resulting in clashes,” he said. “We feel regret, but should condemn the violence.”
The New People’s Party, headed by conservative legislator Regina Ip, condemned the violence but said the orderly conduct of the march was “testimony to the robust exercise of rights and freedoms by Hong Kong people as guaranteed by the Basic Law”.