n Sunday, hundreds of thousands of people marched through the streets of Hong Kong to protest against a proposed law change which would allow criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial.
Organizers claimed that more than 1.03 million people joined in the protest, a figure that would account for about one-seventh of Hong Kong’s population of 7.48 million and make it the largest single demonstration the city has seen since its handover to China in 1997. Meanwhile, as is always the case, police have estimated a much more “modest” number of participants at a peak of 270,000.
Wearing white, the protesters marched from Victoria Park to the Legislative Council building in Admiralty. Many carried placards reading “shelve the evil law” and “no China extradition” while chanting “Hong Kong, never give up!” Photos and videos showing the massive number of participants have been making the rounds on Twitter:
— Stella Lee (@StellaLeeHKnews) June 9, 2019
— 闾丘露薇 (@roseluqiu) June 9, 2019
— Jiayang Fan (@JiayangFan) June 10, 2019
Ok so I would have liked to take the same photo now, some 5 hours after the first, but I can’t physically get there – every road, overpass, tunnel is jammed. So here is the crowd a few blocks further down the road at Admiralty. This is unprecedented, WAY bigger than 2003. https://t.co/isS80lOkDz pic.twitter.com/TYfrPNEvPT
— Antony Dapiran (@antd) June 9, 2019
Apple Daily photos /1 pic.twitter.com/3qIvOb0Mzc
— Kris Cheng (@krislc) June 9, 2019
— Nathan Law 羅冠聰 (@nathanlawkc) June 9, 2019
While the march itself was peaceful, the protest did descend into violence late that night as some demonstrators vowed to remain overnight outside the parliament building and police built barricades. In the ensuing clashes, masked protesters threw bottles while police responded with pepper spray and batons.
Police use pepper spray to clear protesters outside LegCo.
— Hong Kong Free Press (@HongKongFP) June 9, 2019
#LIVE: Although the Hong Kong protest remained overwhelmingly peaceful, officers had to use pepper spray on about 10 protesters after they tried to lay metal barricades on the road https://t.co/mVJSSPWDEF #反送中 #extraditionbill pic.twitter.com/OmNwrxnupo
— SCMP News (@SCMPNews) June 9, 2019
These are new toys. A suitcase full of pepper spray, and the nozzle is literallt a firehose. Went off 2 feet in front of my face. Horrifying thing. pic.twitter.com/XCP3KmZwL8
— Hong Kong Hermit (@HongKongHermit) June 9, 2019
The protesters are angry over a proposed policy change which would alter Hong Kong’s extradition laws to allow suspects to be extradited to mainland China, Macau, or Taiwan on a case-by-case basis. Chief Executive Carrie Lam has charged that the change is needed in order to extradite a 19-year-old man from Hong Kong who allegedly murdered his pregnant girlfriend while vacationing in Taiwan last year.
However, Hongkongers are concerned that this is yet another case of their freedoms under the “one country, two systems” framework being eroded away as Beijing continues to exert a tighter and tighter grip on the former British colony. The law change would allow locals or foreigners passing through Hong Kong to be seized and sent to mainland China for trial where the justice system is infamously opaque and the death penalty liberally used.
Officials have insisted that no one who is at risk of being sentenced to death, being tortured, or facing a political charge would be transferred to the mainland. However, many remain unconvinced.
The record-setting protest hasn’t changed the mind of Lam who declared at a press conference on Monday that she remains committed to passing the controversial extradition bill while adding that the size of the demonstration shows how Hong Kong’s freedoms remain alive and well.