A railway scandal, pro-democracy and calls for Hong Kong independence drew an estimated 1,500 protesters to Hong Kong’s streets as activists marked China’s National Day with a rally and march bristling with anti-Beijing sentiment.

Civil Human Rights Front organised the march, aimed at calling the government to task for a failure to ensure public safety in its construction of the Sha Tin/Central Rail Link.

Protesters called for the resignation of Frank Chan, the government’s secretary for transport and housing, in the wake of the MTR construction controversy. Police are said to be investigating whether building irregularities at Hung Hom station constituted fraud.

Marchers gathered in the heart of Causeway Bay, Hong Kong Island’s prime shopping district, before moving on to the Central Government Office in Admiralty. The number of demonstrators was down markedly on the 2017 National Day protest, which drew an estimated 40,000 onto the streets.

Smaller sub-groups of vocal pro-democracy and independence activists joined the march.

Confrontations occurred along the route, with Pro-Beijing counter-protestors singing the national anthem and waving the flag of the Peoples’ Republic.

Scuffles ensued at Civic Square when security guards blocked a man holding a placard proclaiming “Hong Kong would become China if it doesn’t become independent.”

The protest highlighted concerns that Beijing is interfering increasingly in the city’s governance. It was staged eight days after the Hong Kong government banned a pro-independence party, claiming a national security risk.

Joshua Wong, a key figure in the 2014 “Umbrella Revolution” and Secretary-General of pro-democracy party Demosisto, told protestors, “National Day is not a day for celebration” and said he feared his party could be banned next.