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30,000 March in Hong Kong to Protest Anti-Subversion Laws - 2003-07-09

In a second mass protest in less than 10 days, some 30,000 opponents of Hong Kong's proposed anti-subversion laws surrounded the legislature at dusk. Hong Kong's leader acknowledges the public anger and says his government needs to regain the trust of the people.

Tens of thousands of protesters crammed into the streets and public spaces as they surrounded Hong Kong's legislature on Wednesday, the day delayed controversial security laws were scheduled to go to a vote.

The tone of the evening was good-natured, and while police were out in force, the crowd remained orderly. Many people arrived wearing business clothes, indicating they had joined the protest after work.

Debbie Chan, a protester, said she worries about the anti-subversion measures. We are afraid there will be an abuse of power under national security laws,' she said.

Opponents of the laws say they are a threat to freedom of speech, press and assembly.

Last Sunday, Hong Kong's Chief Executive Tung Chee-Hwa removed some of the most controversial provisions, such as banning groups that are outlawed on mainland China and giving police extended powers of search.

As criticism has escalated, Mr. Tung defended his government, saying Hong Kong must bow to its own constitution and the laws to safeguard China's security. But he also said his government should listen more.

"The government has decided to defer the resumption of the second reading of the national security bill," said Mr. Tung. "The government will be listening to their views carefully, including any dissatisfaction they might be expressing and any aspirations they may have."

Beijing says the anti-subversion laws are necessary for national security. The issue, however, has created the biggest political crisis in Hong Kong since the former British colony returned to Chinese control in 1997.

Mr. Tung's leadership is being questioned after he first ignored the public outcry, then changed the laws and postponed the vote indefinitely.

Hong Kong has a separate legal, economic and judicial system from mainland China and enjoys freedoms not allowed there.