Wednesday, Jul 02, 2003
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``This will push Hong Kong toward an era of tyranny,'' said W.C. Mak, a 74-year-old retired nurse who said the last time she demonstrated was in June 1989, after Chinese troops crushed a student pro-democracy movement in Beijing.
Organisers said at least 100,000 marchers turned out for what appeared to have been Hong Kong's biggest demonstration since the backlash over the Tiananmen Square crackdown, when an estimated 1 million stunned people took to the streets.
The march overshadowed Tuesday's official commemoration of the sixth anniversary of Hong Kong's handover from British to Chinese sovereignty on July 1, 1997.
Hong Kong's national security law, expected to be passed in a few days, will ban subversion, treason, sedition and other crimes against the state, giving police more powers and carrying life prison sentences for some offences.
Critics are worried about mainland-style suppression of dissent in Hong Kong, although the Government insists that is not a concern and that constitutionally protected liberties will not be harmed.
The protesters, clad in black and waving signs, formed a massive line of humanity more than a dozen deep. The demonstration route extended across a wide stretch of Hong Kong island, from an urban park to the Government headquarters.
The organiser, Richard Tsoi, said more than 100,000 people showed up, but police had no immediate estimate. The Government-owned radio RTHK said the protest was by far Hong Kong's biggest since the protest over the Tiananmen Square crackdown.
To commemorate the 1997 return of Chinese rule, a uniformed band played patriotic music and helicopters dragged the Chinese and Hong Kong flags through the sky as Government leaders, including the Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao, and Hong Kong Chief Executive, Tung Chee-hwa, stood at silent attention.
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