Tens of thousands of people marched through the Kowloon side of Hong Kong on Sunday in the latest of a long series of protests against a proposed law that would allow extradition to China.
Sunday’s protest was the first anti-extradition demonstration to take place in Kowloon, an area across the harbor from Hong Kong Island and away from the city’s financial district.
The choice of location was an attempt by the protesters to appeal to tourists from mainland China, who often go to Kowloon for shopping trips.
Hong Kong Police put the turnout at 56,000, while organizers said 230,000 attended. The police said the protests were “generally peaceful and orderly,” but noted that six people were arrested. Five of those arrests were for assaulting a police officer, after protesters blocked roads Sunday night, while one person was arrested earlier in the day for failing to produce proof of identity.
The crowds gathered around West Kowloon station, which connects Hong Kong with mainland China. Many of the slogans were chanted partly in Mandarin during the protest so Chinese mainland tourists could understand.
Protesters fear the proposed new law could be used to seize government critics and send them across the border to face trial in a system with a 99% conviction rate and a history of political prosecutions.
The ongoing protests have already forced the government to suspend the bill. Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam previously said there was no timeline for discussions around the bill to resume and indicated it’s unlikely to pass this year.
The protesters are demanding Lam retracts the bill entirely, and also called for her to resign.
A law firm assistant, Penny Lau, was one of those attending the march on Sunday. The 24-year-old said the protests will go on until the government listens to their demands.
“I definitely do think the protests will continue as long as the government keeps ignoring us,” she said.
Liu Xiaoming, the Chinese ambassador to the United Kingdom, said Sunday that Lam did not receive any instructions or orders from Beijing to implement the controversial extradition law.
“Chief Executive and the Hong Kong government want to make Hong Kong a safer place, and not a safe haven for fugitive criminals,” Liu said in a BBC interview.
The ambassador said China was strongly opposed to what it called the “British intervention in Hong Kong’s internal affairs.”
London summoned the Chinese ambassador over what it said were “unacceptable and inaccurate” comments made by Beijing regarding the UK’s role in ongoing Hong Kong protests.
Beijing has hit out at the UK over accusations of “interference” in the city after British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt expressed support for Hong Kong protesters and said London would stand by the city in preserving its limited democratic freedoms.
The UK handed Hong Kong over to China in 1997. Under an agreement from that time, Beijing agreed the city would be governed under the principle of “one country, two systems” with a high degree of autonomy for the next 50 years.