Organisers of an anti-extradition law protest said that 230,000 marched to the West Kowloon high-speed rail terminal on Sunday in order to inform visitors from the mainland about their movement. Police put the turnout figure at 56,000.
The march in Tsim Sha Tsui was initiated among protesters online, and reiterated the five core demands of the recent demonstrations.
The demands include the complete withdrawal of the controversial bill which would enable fugitive transfers to the mainland, as well as for charges against protesters to be dropped.
Posters advertising the rally said it was an opportunity to “spread the message to mainland tourists” in the popular tourist district.
Ventus Lau, one of the organisers, told reporters that the event would be “peaceful, rational and graceful.”
“We want to show the peaceful side of our protest to mainland tourists, and hope that they will bring the truth of the situation back to the mainland,” Lau said.
He added that the crowd size had exceeded his expectations, which he attributed to the storming of the Legislative Council building on Monday.
Demonstrators gathered at the Salisbury Garden next to the Space Museum at around 2pm.
The march, originally set to begin at 4pm, commenced early with police giving approval for protesters to walk along Kowloon Park Drive and Canton Road.
As demonstrators left the harbourfront, they shouted slogans at police officers on duty, such as “shame on black cops” and “investigate police abuse of force.”
Mr Wong, a 40-year-old, said he wanted to show solidarity with young people: “As long as [Chief Executive] Carrie Lam doesn’t accept any demands, this is not over,” he told HKFP.
He added that he was sympathetic to those who stormed the legislature on Monday, despite the use of violence: “Everyone is asking what else we can do. I don’t know what the answer is for me. But I think that’s what the answer is for young people.”
Before setting off, protesters held a moment of silence for four people who took their own lives, each of whom left messages relating to the protests.
Jenny, a student volunteer at a self-care station, told HKFP that protesters needed emotional support. Station volunteers handed out leaflets saying: “You are not alone, we advance and retreat together.”
“I think a lot of people are coming out to honour the memory of the four who died, and we need to make sure there aren’t any others,” she said.
Mr Zhang, a young tourist from mainland China, said he was aware of protests in Hong Kong, but could not name any of the protesters’ demands. He said he knew about the storming of the legislature on Monday, which he felt was “excessive.”
Crowds chant in Mandarin when they see tourists with suitcases from Mainland #China: 放上微博! Post it on Weibo! Signs read: Cops beat up #HongKong citizens. Students did not riot.Cops shot reporters. #Kowloon #HongKongProtests #weibo pic.twitter.com/GkxTovkIYw
— Ray Chan (@ray_slowbeat) July 7, 2019
“The marchers I saw today seemed to be more normal,” he added. “I hope they won’t take any action against mainlanders in this area.”
Outside the high-speed rail link connecting Hong Kong and the mainland, activist from Demosito raised a blackened version of the city’s flag.
— Hong Kong Free Press (@HongKongFP) July 7, 2019
Station on lockdown
On Sunday morning, the MTR Corporation suspended ticket sales for the mainland.
Those who previously bought tickets could still enter the station, but they were asked to show their tickets and identification documents at the station’s entrance.
The station was also surrounded by two-metre-tall barricades, which partly enclosed the public space outside the station.
Ventus Lau said that he was troubled by the high-profile measures adopted by the police: “This is a disproportionate level of response… which is meant to create the impression that the march is dangerous… The barricades will make it hard for people to leave, and affect those who want to use the services of the station.”