Protesters Target Beijing’s Office in Hong Kong

HONG KONG — Tens of thousands of demonstrators marched across Hong Kong’s main island on Sunday to protest the city’s embattled government, occupying major thoroughfares in defiance of police orders and vandalizing the Chinese government’s liaison office in the city, a direct challenge to Beijing’s authority.

The demonstration on Sunday afternoon began as a peaceful march emphasizing the protesters’ demand for an independent investigation into what they said was police brutality in earlier street clashes.

But thousands of demonstrators later marched past where the police had said the official march should end, then occupied major roads and heckled police officers stationed outside government buildings. By nightfall, when officers in riot gear dispersed hundreds of protesters from outside the Chinese liaison office, another round of street clashes seemed inevitable.

“I hope that the police can take reasonable actions tonight,” Roy Kwong, a lawmaker who has been a driving force behind protests sweeping the city, told reporters at the front lines on Sunday evening. “Otherwise, I fear that the anger of the people will erupt.”

By nightfall, hundreds of protesters had passed the Court of Final Appeal in Central Hong Kong and gathered outside the Chinese government’s liaison office in the city, which lies farther west on the island and where a crowd had already gathered. Some defaced a crest of the Chinese government with black ink, and sprayed the building’s exterior with graffiti.

“Recover Hong Kong; it’s the time for revolution,” some protesters chanted.

Shortly after 8 p.m., about 100 riot police officers, some carrying guns with plastic rounds, approached the liaison office and dragged away metal barricades that protesters had placed in the road.

“Charge forward!” they shouted, as hundreds of protesters fled east through the streets.

But even though they cleared the area immediately around the building, groups of protesters and their barricades remained nearby. Other protesters were engaged in a standoff with the police outside the Central Police Station.

On Sunday evening, the Civil Human Rights Front, which has helped organize the recent protests, said it estimated 430,000 people had turned out for the officially sanctioned part of the afternoon march. A police spokeswoman said by phone that the estimated number of people who had marched along the permitted route during the “peak period” was 138,000.

The developments on Sunday were the latest chapter in the city’s largest-ever demonstrations that have thrown it into the worst political crisis since China reclaimed sovereignty from Britain in 1997. They also signaled growing antagonism between the largely peaceful protest movement and the front-line officers patrolling it.

On Friday, the police said, officers raided an industrial building and seized about two pounds of powerful explosives, 10 gasoline bombs and nitric acid, as well as bullets, slingshots, knives and metal rods.

The police described the site as a “homemade laboratory” of triacetone triperoxide, a highly unstable explosive also known as TATP. They said they were investigating whether the explosives were related to the Sunday protest but did not have adequate evidence to make conclusions.

Three men in their 20s were arrested in connection with the case.

Hong Kong’s mass demonstrations began in early June in response to unpopular legislation that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China, where the courts are controlled by the governing Communist Party. The bill has since been suspended but not fully withdrawn, one of the protesters’ key demands.

On Sunday, thousands of protesters dressed mostly in black T-shirts set off from Victoria Park in the Causeway Bay area of Hong Kong’s main island. Some carried signs saying, “No extradition to China” and “Stop police brutality.”

“The government must withdraw the bill and set up an independent inquiry committee to investigate the police,” Tommy Tsang, an 81-year-old retiree, said at the protest on Sunday.

He said he was particularly angered by the police violence. “If you don’t hit people, why would they hit you back?” he said.

Supporters of the push for an independent inquiry include members of the city’s pro-democracy legislative minority, the Hong Kong Bar Association and the European Parliament.

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