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Marchers ask Trump to 'liberate' Hong Kong, as clashes erupt

• Associated Press

HONG KONG (AP) — Thousands of demonstrators in Hong Kong urged President Donald Trump to "liberate" the semiautonomous Chinese territory during a peaceful march to the U.S. Consulate on Sunday, but violence broke out later in the business and retail district as police fired tear gas after protesters vandalized subway stations, set fires and blocked traffic.

Demonstrators flooded a park in central Hong Kong, chanting "Resist Beijing, Liberate Hong Kong" and "Stand with Hong Kong, fight for freedom." Many of them, clad in black shirts and wearing masks, waved American flags and carried posters that read "President Trump, please liberate Hong Kong" as they marched to the U.S. Consulate nearby.

"Hong Kong is at the forefront of the battle against the totalitarian regime of China," said Panzer Chan, one of the organizers of the march. "Please support us in our fight."

Hong Kong has been rocked by three months of unrest sparked by a proposed law that would have allowed criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial. Many saw the extradition bill as a glaring example of the erosion of civil liberties and rights promised under a "one country, two systems" framework when the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

Hong Kong's government promised this past week to formally withdraw the bill, but that failed to appease the demonstrators, who have widened their demands to include calls for direct elections for the city's leaders and an independent probe into alleged police brutality against protesters.

The unrest has become the biggest challenge to Beijing's rule since Hong Kong's return from Britain. Beijing and the entirely state-controlled media have portrayed the protests as an effort by criminals to split the territory from China, backed by hostile foreigners.

Protesters on Sunday urged Washington to pass a bill, known as the Hong Kong Democratic and Human Rights Act, to support their cause. The bill proposes sanctions against Hong Kong and Chinese officials found to suppress democracy and human rights in the city, and could also affect Hong Kong's preferential trade status with the U.S.

A group of protesters sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" before handing over an appeal letter to a U.S. Consulate official.

Just before the rally ended, violence erupted after riot police detained several people and cleared a crowd from the nearby Central subway station. Angry protesters smashed glass windows, sprayed graffiti and started a fire at one at the station's exits.

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