For Hong Kong investors and democracy advocates alike, the extradition bill reinforced concerns the Beijing-backed government was corroding the legal wall separating the local judicial system from the mainland's-the One Nation, Two Systems policy put in place when China took back Hong Kong from the United Kingdom and Macau from Portugal.
On Saturday, hundreds of pro-government demonstrators gathered in Wan Chai waving China and Hong Kong flags while condemning the violent protests and vandalism of the past months.
Protesters still clogged the main streets of the city hours after the masses began to leave the gathering point in Victoria Park in Causeway Bay and wind their way to the Central district.
Such a big and peaceable demonstration by folks from all walks of life piles stress on Lam and Beijing which have mentioned the protests are stoked by radicals and rioters.
Police granted the protest a letter of no-objection Friday, the first time a march organized by the Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF) has been approved since August.
The police issued a letter of no objection for a public gathering and a following procession in Hong Kong Island on Sunday. The pro-Beijing camp lost more than 200 of the 452 district seats, handing the pro-democracy camp a landslide victory.
Police said 11 people were arrested in raids ahead of the rally and that a handgun was seized.
Hong Kong's new police commissioner, Chris Tang, said his force would take a flexible approach to demonstrations, using "both the hard and soft approach".
What started as demonstrations against a now-withdrawn bill allowing extradition to mainland China has morphed into calls for greater democratic freedoms and sometimes violent protests.
Jean-Pierre Cabestan, a professor of political science at Hong Kong Baptist University, said that even though Sunday's march showed the protest movement remained strong and unified, Beijing was unlikely to listen to its demands.
But no tear gas was sacked - the first time a mass rally has been smoke-free since the middle of August.
Protesters have set out five demands, including universal suffrage and an investigation into alleged police brutality.
According to Kong, only about 15 percent of the people arrested have been formally charged with a crime, but given the large number of arrestees, that still makes over 900 defendants. "Now it's up to Carrie Lam to give a response".
The nearly daily protests have helped drive Hong Kong's economy into recession and taken a heavy toll on retailers, as many shops have been forced to close early amid security concerns and tourists stay away.
The protests have since snowballed into a broad, sustained anti-government movement, presenting the communist leadership in Beijing with a major headache and battering Hong Kong's economy.
President Donald Trump sided with the protesters in late November by signing the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.
"We hope that this is just an overreaction to current events and that worldwide business can constructively forge ahead", Joseph said. Some 81% of people polled in October said they seek political reforms.
Speaking on Tuesday, which is Human Rights Day around the world, Lam also insisted the city's rights and freedoms had not been eroded, and lawmakers should refrain from "bad-mouthing" Hong Kong.
MATTHEW, 21: "We are geared up like this (in all black and gloves) but we think a peaceful way is the best way to beat the government".
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