Angered by the recent jailing of democracy leaders, tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday to protest against a government plan to allow extraditions to mainland China.
The extradition proposal has already provoked large protests and alarmed the city’s business and legal communities, who fear it will have a negative impact on the financial hub’s international appeal and tangle people up in China’s opaque courts.
But Sunday’s protest was one of the biggest in the former British colony in recent years.
The demonstration comes just days after four prominent leaders of Hong Kong’s democracy movement were jailed for their role in organizing mass pro-democracy protests in 2014 that brought parts of the city to a standstill for months.
Demonstrators on Sunday chanted “Step down, Carrie Lam!” – referring to the city’s pro-Beijing leader, while many held the yellow umbrellas that symbolized the 2014 rallies.
Fanly Leung, an accountant, told AFP it was “heartbreaking” to see the activists jailed earlier this week.
“They are professors, highly knowledgable people contributing to society… They could have had a comfortable life making money and not suffer like this. It’s not right to jail these good people,” said Leung, 61.
Zoe Yuen, 20, came with her mother, who became politically active since the 2014 Umbrella Movement protests.
“At least we have done what we should do and can tell the next generation that although we may not get what we want, at least we have resisted,” the university student told AFP.
Some protesters dressed up as Chinese mainland police officers guarding another demonstrator standing behind a portable red cage.
One held up a sign that said: “President Xi Jinping, no legalized kidnapping of Hong Kong people to China.”
Police said some 22,000 turned out, their highest estimate since the 2014 protests. Organizers gave a much higher figure of more than 130,000.
– with reporting by AFP