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Hong Kong protesters back on streets after explosives discovery

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Hong Kong protesters back on streets after explosives discovery
Hong Kong protesters back on streets after explosives discovery. Reuters/T. Siu
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Yet another anti-government protest got underway in Hong Kong on Sunday, as a surge of public anger continues to rock the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.

In similar scenes to the last few weeks, tens of thousands of people rallied through the streets of the Asian financial hub, emboldened by their victory in forcing the government to suspend plans to extradite criminal suspects to China.

Protesters marched from Victoria Park in the bustling shopping district of Causeway Bay to the nearby Wan Chai area.

Later, they pressed past the designated end point, despite orders from police to disperse immediately.

They then occupied a major road next to the city's parliament, and a large crowd gathered outside the police headquarters.

Authorities locked down the city center, deployed 5,000 officers and shortened the protest route, citing safety concerns, after previous marches turned violent when police confronted small groups of hardcore protesters.

Read more: Taiwan open to granting Hong Kong protesters asylum

Hong Kong on high alert

The seizure on Friday night of a large cache of explosives linked to a small pro-independence group has further stoked security fears.

Millions of Hong Kong residents have participated in the protests, which first erupted last month, forcing the territory's leader, Carrie Lam, to put the extradition bill on hold.

The demonstrations have since morphed into a wider movement demanding more autonomy from Beijing. Many residents say Chinese leaders have encroached on promises made when Hong Kong was handed back to China by Britain in 1997.

Under the "One Country, Two Systems" principle, Hong Kong has retained extensive freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland.

Calls for voting rights

Protest organizers say China is now seeking to control the territory. In response to this perceived threat, they have widened their demands to include the introduction of universal suffrage and a halt to sliding freedoms. Activists have also accused police officers of using "excessive force" against demonstrators and demanded a full investigation.

Read more: China accuses UK of supporting violent Hong Kong protests

There are signs, however, that Beijing's patience with the protest movement is running out. Earlier this week, the South China Morning Post reported that Beijing was drawing up a plan to shore up support for Lam and the police.

On Saturday, pro-government, pro-Beijing supporters staged their own counterdemonstration calling on authorities to "restore order" following weeks of disruption that has resulted in tourism arrivals dropping sharply.

Explosives uncovered

Meanwhile, three people were arrested in connection with Friday night's explosives seizure, which police described as the largest ever of its kind in Hong Kong.

They said it was unclear whether the explosives were related to the protest. However, one of those arrested was a member of a small pro-independence party.

mm/jlw (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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