Hong Kong protest organizer Civil Human Rights Front estimates more than 1.7 million people gathered in the rain Sunday for the region’s 11th consecutive week of demonstrations.
Government officials told protesters to stay in Victoria Park, but the large, pro-democracy crowd eventually took to the streets to protest an extradition bill that would allow suspected criminals in Hong Kong to be tried in China, the South China Morning Post reported.
“The most important thing currently is to restore social order as soon as possible,” a government spokesman said, according to SCMP. “When everything is calm, the government will conduct a sincere dialogue with the public to repair strains and rebuild social harmony.”
Protesters were also responding to reports of police brutality during demonstrations that took place last week at a subway station and Hong Kong International Airport.
They chanted, “Go, Hongkongers!” and played the song, “Do you hear the people sing?” from the musical Les Misérables on loudspeakers. Many walked two miles into Hong Kong’s financial district, blocking off major roads, and thousands occupied several lanes of public highway space by nightfall, The Wall Street Journal reported.
“If we have to break the law to exercise our constitutional rights, it means the government is exploiting our constitutional rights,” veteran pro-democracy campaigner Leung Kwok-hung told WSJ. “This is a provocation. How could you stop violence by banning a peaceful march? You would only let more violence happen.”
Thousands of protesters forced Hong Kong International to cancel hundreds of flights on Aug. 12 and 13 to express their anger over the way police responded to Aug. 11 protests by using excessive force and teargas in an enclosed subway station in Kwai Fong and in the shopping district of Tsim Sha Tsui.
What started as peaceful protests in June — including a unified June 9 demonstration that drew an estimated 1 million people — has since escalated, raising concern of potential Chinese military intervention.
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