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Thousands of protesters in Hong Kong defy police ban, begin march

photo by AP photo

Demonstrators gather during a protest at Hong Kong International Airport on Sunday.

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29th-Jul-2019       
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AFP, Hong Kong :
Thousands of pro-democracy protesters defied a police ban and began marching through Hong Kong on Sunday, a day after riot police fired rubber bullets and tear gas in the latest violent confrontation to plunge the financial hub deeper into crisis.
Huge crowds gathered in the heart of the city's commercial district on Sunday afternoon, after police gave permission for a static protest in a park but banned a proposed march through the city.
Yet protesters soon spilled into the streets outside the park and began marching in spite of the ban, ratcheting up the likelihood of renewed clashes.
"I feel so conflicted, seeing young people sacrifice their future for Hong Kong," a 22-year-old student protester called Marcus told AFP, breaking into tears.
The latest march comes a day after a town near the border with mainland China descended into chaos, as police battled protesters holding another banned rally against suspected pro-government triad gangs who beat up democracy demonstrators there last weekend.
Riot police used tear gas throughout the afternoon and evening in Yuen Long after tense standoffs with protesters, some of whom were throwing projectiles and had surrounded a police van.
Rubber bullets were fired later in the clashes which ended when officers baton-charged the last remaining demonstrators inside the town's metro station, leaving pools of blood in the same concourse where the suspected triads had attacked the previous weekend.
Saturday's violence compounds the political crisis engulfing the city's pro-Beijing leadership who are seemingly unable, or unwilling, to end the chaos.
Semi-autonomous Hong Kong has been plunged into its worst crisis in recent history after millions of demonstrators took to the streets and sporadic violent confrontations erupted between police and pockets of hardcore protesters.
The demonstrations over the last seven weeks were triggered by a controversial bill which would have allowed extraditions to mainland China, but have evolved into a call for wider democratic reforms and a halt to sliding freedoms.
Yet the unprecedented protests with huge turnouts-as well as frequent clashes and the sacking of parliament-have had little luck persuading Beijing or Hong Kong's leaders.
Beijing has issued increasingly shrill condemnations in the last two weeks, but has left it to the city's government to deal with the situation. City leader Carrie Lam has shown no sign of backing down beyond agreeing to suspend the extradition bill.
Her administration has faced down weeks of public anger and she has made few public appearances beyond visiting injured officers and holding a handful of press conferences. 

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