The protesters from Hong Kong march to the station to educate the continental Chinese
HONG KONG: Tens of thousands of anti-government protesters demonstrated in front of a controversial train station linking the territory with mainland China on Sunday, the last mass demonstration of anger as activists try to keep pressure on the city's pro-Beijing leaders .
The demonstration was the first large-scale protest since the unprecedented assault of parliament on Monday by largely young and masked demonstrators, which plunged the international financial center into crisis.
Hong Kong has been shaken by a month of great marches and a series of violent confrontations with the police, caused by a law that would have allowed extradition to mainland China.
Since then, the bill has been postponed in response to the intense backlash, but has done little to calm the public's anger, which has become a broader movement that demands democratic reforms and slows the slide of freedoms in the semi-autonomous city.
Organizers said some 230,000 people meandered through the streets in the district opposite the port of Tsim Sha Tsui, an area popular with Chinese tourists. The police said that 56,000 showed up at the peak of the protest.
The march was announced as an opportunity to explain to the inhabitants of the city of the city what their protest movement is about.
Within China, where the news and information is heavily censored, the Hong Kong protests have been portrayed as a mainly violent plan financed with foreign funds to destabilize the homeland, not as a mass popular movement over the growing shadow of Beijing over the semi-autonomous center.
We want to show tourists, including tourists from mainland China, what is happening in Hong Kong and we hope they can take this concept to China, Eddison Ng, an 18-year-old protester, told AFP.
The people of Hong Kong speak Cantonese, but the protesters used Bluetooth to send leaflets in Mandarin, the predominant language on the continent, to nearby telephones, hoping to spread the word to the inhabitants of the island by word of mouth.
Why are there still so many people coming to protest now? A man said in Mandarin through a speaker. Because the Hong Kong government did not listen to our demands.
Many protest banners were written with the simplified Chinese characters used in the continent, not with the traditional Chinese system used in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
And a legislator had to train the crowds on how to sing. The students are not rioters using the correct pronunciation in Mandarin.
The protesters demand that the postponed extradition bill be completely eliminated, an independent investigation into the use of tear gas and rubber bullets, an amnesty for those arrested and that the city's unelected leader, Carrie Lam, resign.
Beijing has given its full support to Lam, and has asked the Hong Kong police to prosecute anyone involved in the assault on parliament and other clashes.
In an interview with the BBC on Sunday, China's ambassador to Britain said the extradition law was necessary to cover the gaps and that Beijing has full confidence in the government of Hong Kong.
Sunday's protest began on the coast, the first time a rally was held on the main island, and headed to West Kowloon, a recently opened multi-million dollar station that connects to China's high-speed rail network.
The police placed the glass and steel structure in a virtual lock. Long rows of water-filled safety barriers surrounded the station, while only those with pre-purchased tickets were allowed entry.
Ticket sales for Sunday afternoon stopped and only two tickets were opened.
The demonstrators, some of them masked, clashed with the police and shouted Add oil! A phrase in Cantonese for breath embraced for a long time by the protesters. But there were no clashes.
The term is controversial because Chinese law operates in the parts of the station that deal with immigration and customs, as well as platforms, even though West Kowloon is miles from the border.
Critics say the move delivered part of the city's territory to an increasingly assertive Beijing.
Local politician Ventus Lau Wing-hong, one of the organizers of the demonstration, said there was no desire to occupy the station since the catalyst for his movement was to oppose people being sent to the mainland.
Under the Hong Kong mini-constitution, China's national laws do not apply to the city, except in limited areas, including defense.
Hong Kong also enjoys rights not seen on the continent, including freedom of expression, protected by an agreement made before the city was returned to China by Britain in 1997.
But there are growing fears that these freedoms are being eroded.
Among the recent moments of the dividing line, critics point to the disappearance of the custody of dissident booksellers, the disqualification of prominent politicians, the de facto expulsion of a foreign journalist and the imprisonment of leaders of democracy.