More than a million people reportedly hit the streets of Hong Kong to protest a bill that would allow extradition to mainland China.
Police estimated the crowd at 240,000, but organizers said more than 1 million were present, making the protest one of the largest in recent Hong Kong history, according to the Associated Press.
The proposed extradition law would grant people suspected of crimes to be sent to China to face trial.
The U.S. government expressed concerns about proposed changes to the law.
“The peaceful demonstration of hundreds of thousands of Hongkongers yesterday clearly shows the public’s opposition to the proposed amendments,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus told South China Morning Post.
She added that “the lack of procedural protections in the proposed amendments could undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy and negatively impact the territory’s long-standing protections of human rights, fundamental freedoms and democratic values as enshrined in the Basic Law and the Sino-British Joint Declaration.”
Teacher Garry Chiu said he protested for his wife and 1-year-old daughter.
“If the law is implemented, anyone can disappear from Hong Kong. No one will get justice in China. We know there are no human rights,” Chiu told Reuters.
The peaceful gathering turned violent as clashes broke out between protestors and police who used batons and pepper spray to prevent demonstrators from attempting to storm the city’s parliament.
A vote on the bill is set for Wednesday when about 100 businesses including bakeries, toy stores and others would close, SCMP reported.
“The people of Hong Kong want to protect our freedom, our freedom of speech, our rule of law, our judicial system, and also our economic foundation, which is welcome to international investors,” activist Lee Cheuk-yan, a former Hong Kong legislator, told AP. “If international investors lose confidence in Hong Kong because of this evil bill, then Hong Kong, economically, would also be destroyed.”
On Sunday, Hong Kong’s government released a statement that the debate over the bill will resume June 12.