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Tens of thousands in Hong Kong kick off third major protest march against extradition bill

Protesters gather at Victoria Park. Photo: AFP. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

Pan Pacific Agency | COMMUICATION AGENCY FOR PACIFICA REGIONS

HONG KONG, Jul 21, 2019, SCMP. Tens of thousands of protesters in Hong Kong took to the streets again on Sunday in a third massive march against the now-suspended extradition bill and the city’s embattled government, amid tightened security measures by police over fears of escalating violence, reported the South China Morning Post.

The march kicked off at about 3.30pm at Victoria Park and will end at Southorn Playground in Wan Chai instead of its original destination at the Court of Final Appeal in Central. Organiser Civil Human Rights Front had lost its appeal a day earlier against police, who want to shorten the route out of security concerns.

The front held two massive peaceful marches on June 9 and 16, drawing an estimated 1 million and 2 million people respectively.

The theme of Sunday’s march centred on demands made by protesters, among which is the setting up of an independent commission of inquiry over police actions involving what is perceived as excessive use of force on protesters.

Over the past weeks, protesters and police have clashed in running battles after marches, resulting in casualties and arrests.

Jimmy Sham Tsz-kit, convenor of the Civil Human Rights Front, on Sunday slammed police’s crowd control measures as “ridiculous”.

“There is no clear guidance from police on how to leave Wan Chai after the march, except to say we should leave from the south side of Wan Chai. But there are big crowds in the same area heading to the book fair, as well as people everywhere in Causeway Bay and Admiralty.

“If there is any disturbances or accidents today, the responsibility lies squarely with police,” Sham said.

He added that escalating violence which culminated in last Sunday’s bloody clashes in Sha Tin were a result of Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s failure to resolve the problem.

“The front will continue to ensure the safety of our march participants. But the buck stops with Lam for all the violence and clashes,” Sham said.

Among rally-goers under Sunday’s searing heat was housewife Wendy Wong, 57, who said she had joined almost every extradition bill protest since late April. Wong called on the government to solve the city’s political crisis immediately to prevent further violence.

“Those who resort to violence are just a small number of protesters, who feel hopeless over the government’s lack of response,” Wong said, adding that conflicts between police and protesters were a result of the government’s intransigence.

Police said their decision to shorten the route, the first time for a protest since 2014, was needed for public safety as they noted there were online posts advocating the use of weapons and deviating from the approved roads.

The shorter route prevents protesters from passing police headquarters in Wan Chai, as well as the government headquarters and legislature in Admiralty, which been barricaded by 2-metre water barriers to avoid a repeat of sieges and storming in the past month.

Hong Kong has been rocked by protests and increasingly bloody clashes over the extradition bill, which would have allowed the transfer of fugitives to jurisdictions with which the city has no such arrangement.

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