Thousands of protesters surrounded and defaced Beijing’s representative office in Hong Kong following a peaceful march on July 21, the first direct challenge to the Chinese regime in months-long protests against a controversial extradition bill.
Late in the evening, as protesters began to leave the building premises, police arrived to clear them away. A standoff ensued, whereby police fired tear gas and rubber bullets. By half past midnight, protesters had mostly left.
Protesters had earlier swarmed the streets of Hong Kong’s main island on Sunday afternoon to call for the complete withdrawal of the extradition bill and an independent inquiry into police use of force in recent demonstrations.
March organizer Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF) said that over 430,000 joined Sunday’s march, while police estimated a crowd of 138,000 at its peak. CHRF has organized several previous rallies attended by millions.
The since-suspended bill, which proposed that people could be extradited to mainland China for trial, has drawn widespread opposition. Many Hong Kong residents view it is the latest step in a relentless march toward mainland Chinese control.
Another Weekend, Another March
On Sunday, the mostly young protesters, clad in black, began gathering at Victoria Park around 3 p.m. and marched toward Wan Chai, a busy commercial area. Many were holding fans and umbrellas, while others stuck cooling patches onto their foreheads, to combat the sweltering heat. Many more wore masks to protect their identities.
Protesters brandished signs and chanted slogans reiterating their central demands: “[Hong Kong leader] Carrie Lam must step down,” “Release all arrested martyrs [protesters],” and “There are no rioters, only tyranny,” referring to previous police characterizations of protests as riots. They also demanded universal suffrage in electing the city’s officials.
There was a contingent of elderly who joined the march, who coined themselves “the group of silver-haired.” Several days ago, they held their own anti-extradition-bill march to express support for the youngsters on the frontlines of the protests.
CHRF made the establishment of an independent inquiry the central theme of the march, saying that it was the most effective way Lam’s administration could pacify heated public sentiments against the city government.
“Hongkongers no longer have faith in Lam’s administration,” Jimmy Sham, convenor at CHRF, said at a rally held before the march began. “An independent investigative committee must be established to reveal the truths [about what happened in clashes], and only when things return to reality, can Hong Kong’s future bear any hopes.”
Protesters and many of the public were outraged at police use of force during June 12 protests in front of the government headquarters, when police fired tear gas, rubber bullets, and beanbags to disperse protesters, resulting in over 80 civilian injuries.
In recent weeks, mass rallies have descended into chaos and pitched fights with the police, the latest being clashes on July 14 inside a luxury shopping mall in the Sha Tin district.
Sham also thanked the spiritual group, Falun Gong, which was also holding a march in the same area, for starting its demonstration earlier to accommodate the anti-extradition-bill protest.
CHRF originally planned for the march to end at the Court of Final Appeal in the Central district, but the police rejected the proposal, citing security concerns. The police mandated an alternate endpoint of Wan Chai.
But thousands marched past Wan Chai nonetheless, resulting in brief standoffs with the police.
Another group walked further west toward the Hong Kong Liaison Office, which is Beijing’s representative office. Around 7 p.m., the protesters arrived.
In the first act to directly rebuke Beijing’s rule, protesters defaced a crest of the Chinese Communist Party with black paint, while others threw eggs at the entrance sign of the building. Some spray-painted graffiti on the building walls.
The protesters then occupied major roads and heckled police officers stationed outside government buildings. “Recover Hong Kong; it’s the time for revolution,” they chanted.
Around 9:30 p.m., protesters and riot police converged on Connaught Road. Police marched forward and warned that they would use force to disperse them. Around 10:45 p.m., police fired tear gas, followed by several rounds of rubber bullets.
The Hong Kong bureau of The Epoch Times contributed to this report.
From The Epoch Times