Thousands of demonstrators on Monday marched towards the Hong Kong government's headquarters to demand the chief executive's resignation and the complete withdrawal of a controversial extradition bill that would allow criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial.
One of the most prominent student activists, Joshua Wong, 22, who is widely known for his leading role in the 2014 pro-democracy protests, joined the mass rally against the proposed legislation, following his release from jail after serving a two-month sentence.
Buoyed by Wong joining them, the protesters gathered at the Legislative Council and then marched towards the heavily-protected government headquarters, located nearby.
People turned out in huge numbers even as the city government led by Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Saturday suspended the proposed law that has sparked an unprecedented outpouring of public anger on Hong Kong streets.
The protesters Monday demanded Lam to step down immediately and called for complete revocation of the bill. They threatened to continue with the demonstration until their demands were met.
Wong, who as a teenager became the face of Hong Kong's pro-democracy "Umbrella Movement" five years ago, was present at the gates of the city’s legislature.
The student activist was received with big applause and cheers by the sea of protesters outside the legislative council building. He addressed the crowd, standing on a foldable ladder.
Wong said Lam needed to step down immediately because she had failed to completely kill the bill, something that he said should have been done days ago.
The student leader was earlier set free from jail, with his release coinciding with the massive protest demonstrations in the past week that have rocked the former British colony amid concerns that the bill would compromise on civil liberties and judicial system of the semi-autonomous region.
“Hello world and hello freedom. I have just been released from prison. GO HONG KONG!! Withdraw the extradition bill. Carrie Lam step down. Drop all political prosecutions!" Wong tweeted.
Speaking to the media after his release, Wong commented on the ongoing anti-extradition bill protests.
"I thank the two million people who marched yesterday, and the one million people last week, and those Hong Kong people on the front lines defending violent attacks by the police on June 12,” he said.
"We demand Carrie Lam step down, retract the extradition bill, and withdraw the labeling of 'riot,'" he said, referring to the phrase used by local authorities and Beijing to describe the demonstrations.
“Hong Kong people will not bow down to the authoritarian regime (in Beijing). Stop arresting and charging protesters. Otherwise, Hong Kong people will fight back more," said Wong, who predicted more protests in the coming weeks if Lam did not step down.
Sharing his jail experience with the crowd, the activist said the prison cell was extremely dirty and he was allowed to change his T-shirts only twice every week.
Asked if wanted to lead the protests in the absence of an identifiable leader, Wong said he had no suggestions to offer on the ways to continue the demonstrations.
The chief executive issued a statement on Sunday offering an apology for proposing the legislation. But the protesters were not impressed. Over a million people showed up on Sunday calling for the complete withdrawal of the bill and her resignation.
According to organizers, nearly two million people took part in the mass protest, which, if confirmed, would make it one of the largest demonstrations in the city. However, police said only 338,000 people turned out at the peak of the protest.
The bill has met with massive opposition across the region amid concerns by human rights organizations that it would allow activists, non-profit workers and journalists be tried in a judicial system in mainland China which offers no guarantees.
The organizers of protests had on Monday called a general strike which did not receive much support.
Dozens of people in the morning came to lay flowers and scribble messages at the place where a protester died over the weekend after falling from a scaffold while trying to put up a poster on Queen's Way Avenue.