Police in Hong Kong arrested 196 protesters at a sit-in following a rally staged by hundreds of thousands in protest of the Chinese government. Organizers have said that 510,000 people marched in the annual demonstration to mark the day the British colony was returned to China. Protests have become increasingly vocal in Hong Kong as Beijing attempts to reaffirm sovereignty over the largely autonomous city-state.

The exact number of protesters, the Associated Press reports, is disputed. Police put figures at 98,600, while Hong Kong University estimates between 154,000 and 172,000. Protest organizers claim that this year's march has seen the highest turnout in a decade.

This year's rally comes as Hong Kong pushes for a democratic election process that has faced resistance from Beijing. From the New York Times:

The march came days after nearly 800,000 residents participated in an informal vote on making the selection of the city's top official more democratic, a vote Beijing dismissed as illegal. It also followed the Chinese cabinet's release three weeks ago of a so-called white paper that asserted broad central government authority over Hong Kong, angering many residents.

Beijing had promised Hong Kong a "high degree of autonomy" before Britain returned the territory to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, and the bluntly worded white paper set off a furious backlash. That backlash has coincided with a contentious debate over how to introduce universal suffrage — one person, one vote — for Hong Kong's chief executive, to be chosen in elections in 2017.

And while the crowd was large and described as mostly peaceful, protesters indicated, the Times reports, that the rally was merely an opening act to further demonstrations against the Chinese government should they continue to resist free elections in Hong Kong.

[Image via AP]