Hong Kong protesters aim to take message to mainland China

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A woman distributes newspapers in a shopping district popular with mainland Chinese tourists in Hong Kong (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Protesters in Hong Kong are taking their message to visitors from mainland China in a march to a high-speed rail station that connects to mainland destinations.

A mostly young crowd gathered in the mid-afternoon ahead of a march through a high-end shopping area popular with Chinese tourists and ending at West Kowloon station.

Police put up large barricades blocking a main entrance to the station to prevent any attempt to enter it. Only passengers with reservations would be allowed into the station, the mass transit authority said, and Hong Kong media reported that ticket sales had been suspended for afternoon trains.

Protesters are spreading their message at a high-speed rail station that connects the city to the mainland in China
Protesters are spreading their message at a high-speed rail station that connects the city to the mainland in China (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

The march is the first major protest since last Monday, when protesters smashed thick glass walls to break into the legislature’s building and wreaked havoc inside, spray painting slogans on the walls, overturning furniture and damaging voting and fire prevention systems.

March organisers said they want to explain their cause to people from the mainland, where media coverage of the movement has been limited and focused largely on the damage to public property.

Hong Kong has been riven by protests for the past month, sparked by proposed changes to the extradition laws that would have allowed suspects to be sent to the mainland to face trial.

The legislation, which the government has suspended indefinitely because of the protests, raised broader concerns about an erosion of freedoms and rights in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory in recent years.

Hong Kong was allowed to keep its own legal system for 50 years after Britain returned the then-colony to China in 1997, but many in the city fear that freedom of expression and other rights are under threat.

The high-speed rail station, which opened last September, was a source of contention, as passengers pass through Chinese immigration and customs inside. Some opposition politicians said the fact that Chinese law applies in the immigration area violates the agreement giving Hong Kong its own legal system.

The July 1 break-in at the legislature overshadowed a peaceful march the same day by hundreds of thousands of people also opposed to the extradition legislation.