Thousands of anti-government protesters have occupied key thoroughfares on Hong Kong Island, swarming around government headquarters in Admiralty, the Court of Final Appeal in Central and China’s top office in the city in Sai Wan.
Earlier, the anti-extradition law demonstrators joined a police-approved march calling for an independent commission of inquiry into recent demonstrations and the police use of force.
The protest, organised by the Civil Human Rights Front, also demanded a complete withdrawal of the now-suspended extradition bill, the retraction of the “riot” characterisation of the June 12 protests, the unconditional release of all arrested protesters, as well as universal suffrage.
However, after setting off from Victoria Park in Causeway Bay at around 3:30pm, thousands of demonstrators passed the official endpoint in Wan Chai and proceeded westwards towards the central business district.
Many occupied roads outside the legislature and government headquarters in Admiralty as police retreated.
Some activists – mostly young people wearing masks and dressed in black – created makeshift barricades as they marched and brought traffic to a standstill.
Some activists used spray paint to obscure CCTV cameras.
And one group told HKFP that they were adding dye to water balloons for use by protesters.
Other protesters pressed on to Central and Sheung Wan before heading further west towards Sai Wan.
They chanted “free Hong Kong” and “democracy now.” Some also chanted jailed activist Edward Leung’s 2016 election slogan: “Reclaim Hong Kong, revolution of our times”
The Front’s march was originally intended to finish at the Court of Final Appeal. but police demanded that it end in Wan Chai to prevent “violent acts” and a potential storming of government headquarters.
The authorities have erected two-metre tall water barricades outside government buildings and the chief executive’s office, and removed surrounding metal fences to prevent protesters from building makeshift barricades.
The controversial extradition bill would allow the city to handle case-by-case fugitive transfers to jurisdictions with no prior arrangements, including China, sparking public concerns over human rights in Hong Kong.
On July 9, Chief Executive Carrie Lam declared the bill “dead,” but did not enact any mechanism to withdraw it, nor agree to other demands.
More to follow.