HONG KONG — Hundreds of thousands of protesters marched through Hong Kong on Sunday to voice their opposition to legislation that would allow people to be extradited to mainland China where they could face politically charged trials.
The massive demonstration took place three days before the semi-autonomous Chinese territory’s government plans to bring the highly contentious bill to the full legislature in a bid to win approval by the end of the month.
Police estimated the crowd at 240,000, but organizers said more than 1 million took part.
The protest was one of the largest in recent Hong Kong history, underscoring fears over China’s broadening footprint in the former British colony.
It appeared to be even bigger than a massive pro-democracy demonstration in 2003 against a proposed national security law, according to Associated Press journalists who covered both events.
Late Sunday night, a group of demonstrators broke through barriers at government headquarters, where the march had ended. The crowd briefly pushed its way into the lobby, but police in riot gear used batons and pepper spray to push the protesters outside. Most had dispersed by 1 a.m., but police continued pushing protesters away for kilometers over a period of two to three hours.
There was still a strong police presence on streets throughout downtown Hong Kong as of 3 a.m. Monday.
A small group of protesters sat with hands tied on the side of Gloucester Road, surrounded by police.
People of all ages took part in the march, some pushing strollers and others carrying canes, chanting slogans in the native Cantonese dialect in favor of greater transparency in government.