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By Felix Tam and Donny Kwok
HONG KONG (Reuters) – Thousands of Hong Kong protesters gathered on Thursday to mark six months since their first major clash with police, when they blocked legislators from advancing an extradition bill that has since been scrapped.
On June 12, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protesters occupying roads near the legislative council just as it was to give a second reading to the bill that would have allowed criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China, where courts are controlled by the Communist Party.
After the clash, the council reading was indefinitely postponed and the bill later formally withdrawn. But outrage caused by the police response contributed to the unrest evolving into a broader movement calling for greater democracy.
Demonstrators’ demands now include universal suffrage and an independent inquiry into the police handling of the protests. Police have described their actions as reactive and restrained.
On Thursday, several thousand Hong Kongers of all ages gathered in a central park in the heart of the Chinese-ruled city’s financial district for to mark the event, starting with a moment of silence.
“June 12 was a turning point in this movement,” said Mark Chou, a 24-year-old engineer in the crowd. “We had a 1 million people peaceful march on June 9, but the government was still pushing the bill forward at that time. This experience taught us peaceful protest would not work in this city.”
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