Hong Kong protesters march again, aiming to take their message to mainland Chinese
The demonstrations, which were sparked by a controversial extradition bill, have expanded into a broader repudiation of Beijing's growing influence.
Protesters gather before a march to the West Kowloon railway station, where high-speed trains depart for the Chinese mainland, during a demonstration against a proposed extradition bill in Hong Kong on July 7, 2019.VIVEK PRAKASH / AFP - Getty Images
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HONG KONG — Thousands of protesters dressed in black on Sunday flooded Hong Kong's streets and surrounded a train station connecting the island to mainland China as part of an escalating movement to preserve the territory's independence.
Demonstrations kicked off last month in opposition to a proposed extradition bill that would allow for suspects to be sent to the mainland to face trial, but have since expanded into a broader repudiation of Beijing's growing influence.
The movement has sparked some of the largest demonstrations in the city's history, with as many as 2 million of Hong Kong's 7 million residents taking to the streets. Sunday's protests were calmer in comparison, with organizers estimating over 230,000 people in attendance.
"This is about the future of Hong Kong," protester Andy Chiu, 52, told NBC News Sunday.
"It is our right to protest, to express what we want," said Chiu, who had brought his son along with him. "We need to preserve it, and let the younger generations to know that this is their right, and this shall not be taken away from them in the future."
Sunday's march was the first significant demonstration since protests turned violent last Monday.
Chanting slogans and words of encouragement to their fellow citizens, demonstrators then headed west through a popular shopping destination dotted with luxury shops and toward a major rail hub where visitors from mainland China arrive.
That marked a change from previous routes.
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Organizers said Sunday's aims were to reiterate the protesters' demands to the government and to give mainland visitors a firsthand look at their movement.
Lau Wing-hong, one of the organizers, said the rally would be peaceful.
"It is hoped that Hong Kong people can spread how Hong Kong people can march peacefully and bring the protest information back to the mainland to mainland visitors," Lau told Reuters.
However, hours after the march was expected to end, demonstrations continued. The gathering, considered illegal by police, resulted in clashes and arrests.
In addition to scrapping the bill, demonstrators are now demanding that authorities retract the description of the movement as a riot, drop all charges against protesters, investigate alleged abuses of power by the police force and replace the governing Legislative Council with a more democratic body.
The demonstrations aren't only fueling tensions between China and Hong Kong, but also with Britain.