Hong Kong sees biggest protests since controversial bill dropped as demonstrators find their anthem

Katy Wong
Tear gas was fired during the protests - REUTERS

After three months of chaos in Hong Kong, tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets with a new “protest anthem” on Sunday, despite the formal withdrawal of a controversial extradition bill.

Protesters gathered outside a department store in the afternoon for a pro-democracy rally took place, despite being banned by police.

Some protesters threw bricks at police outside the Chinese People's Liberation Army base in the city's Admiralty district, and tore down and set fire to a red banner proclaiming the 70th anniversary on Oct 1 of the founding of the People's Republic of China, in a direct challenge to Beijing. 

The illegal march marks the biggest protest since the withdrawal of the bill, which would have allowed the extradition of fugitives to mainland China. 

However, protesters are urging the government to instate direct elections and an independent commission into police brutality. They are also calling for unconditional release of those detained, and an end to the authorities describing the protests as riots.

Armed Riot police officers on patrol during an anti-government rally  Credit: JEROME FAVRE/EPA-EFE/REX

“We are not even talking about being independent, as long as the government meets our demands, we will go home,” said James Wong, 25.

“I guess this is not happening now because of the political circumstances. But I will continue to protest because this is our society, our generation. If we don’t speak out, we could be the next Xinjiang, we have to stay strong.”

Protesters repeatedly sang Glory to Hong Kong, a song that has gained traction over the last few days and been dubbed the “unofficial national anthem”.

The song, reportedly recently composed by a musician in his mid-20s and set to an orchestral backing, has been widely spread on social media. 

Protesters sang in Cantonese: “Our flesh, our blood shall write this song. Free this land, stand with Hong Kong.”

Police spray anti-government protesters with coloured water Credit: REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

Mostly in black t-shirts, protesters held signs saying: “I thought freedom was a basic human right” and “Guard our future”. 

Riot police fired rounds of tear gas, and hundreds of protesters surrounded the Legislative Council building showed no signs of leaving, throwing bricks and petrol bombs towards the government offices.

Police later deployed water cannon with blue and white dye, protesters and reporters changed clothes and washed off the dye on nearby overpass, and bystanders received first aid treatment with saline solution after rounds of tear gas. Since the protests kicked off, police have arrested more than 1300 protesters, aged between 12 and 76.

“Hong Kong people have been living under white terror for three months, we are used to it,” said Anthony Chau, 22. “We won’t give up and I will continue to attend protests.”