Thousands of Hong Kong civil servants have streamed into Chater Garden in Central on Friday evening – the latest group to put aside its typical lack of political involvement to press home five demands on the governent's now suspended extradition bill.
Organisers say 40,000 people took part, while police put the peak number at 13,000.
Despite warning from officials, who said civil servants were expected to stay loyal to the administration, they arrived in huge numbers, spilling into surrounding streets.
Some also expressed support for a general strike, planned for Monday.
The former chief secretary, Anson Chan, and pan-democrat lawmakers have given speeches supporting protesters' demands, which include setting up an independent inquiry to look at the whole extradition bill saga.
"What the secretary for the civil service, and what the chief executive and the chief secretary should be asking themselves is why is it that, 22 years after the handover, civil servants, unprecedentedly, feel the need to stand up and make their voices heard," Chan said.
She said that under the Basic Law, only specific civil servants, such as administrative officers, information officers, heads of departments and disciplined services officers, were forbidden from taking part in such action.
Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung had earlier clarified that civil servants could take part as long as they did so in their own time.
One civil servant who took part said he was motivated by the police's failure to stop a violent attack by a mob of white-shirted men at Yuen Long MTR station last month.
"We have the right to shout out our opinion to the government, because the government should reply to the requests from the citizens, because the citizens are our boss," he said. He intended to join Monday's general strike.
The assembly began to pack up at about 10pm. Surrounding roads reopened as the crowd cleared
Last updated: 2019-08-02 HKT 23:40