Hong Kong government apologises after mass protests

Hong Kong government apologises after mass protests

Hong Kong citizens marched for hours in a massive protest that drew an apology from the city’s leader for her handling of legislation that has stoked fears of expanding control from Beijing in the former British colony.

The demonstration looked likely to match in scale one a week earlier, that brought as many as one million people out to express their concern over Hong Kong’s relations with mainland China, in one of the toughest tests of the territory’s special status since Beijing took control in a 1997 handover.

Well after dark, crowds gathered outside the police headquarters and chief executive Carrie Lam’s office.

On Saturday, Ms Lam suspended her effort to force passage of the bill, which would allow some suspects to be sent for trial in mainland China.

Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam (Kin Cheung/AP)
Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam (Kin Cheung/AP)

The move did not appease Hong Kong residents angered over the plan who see it as one of many steps chipping away at Hong Kong’s freedoms and legal autonomy.

Opponents worry the law could be used to send criminal suspects to China to potentially face vague political charges, possible torture and unfair trials.

Protesters are also angered over forceful tactics used by police in quelling unrest at a June 12 demonstration.

Tens of thousands of protesters carry posters and banners through the streets (Kin Cheung/AP)
Tens of thousands of protesters carry posters and banners through the streets (Kin Cheung/AP)

The statement issued late on Sunday mentioned the demonstrations and said the government “understands that these views have been made out of love and care for Hong Kong”.

“The chief executive apologised to the people of Hong Kong for this and pledged to adopt a most sincere and humble attitude to accept criticisms and make improvements in serving the public,” it said.

The marchers want Ms Lam to scrap the extradition bill, which is supported by the communist leadership in Beijing, and to resign.

The crowds filled a wide thoroughfare and side streets paralleling the waterfront of Victoria Harbour as tourists and shoppers who drive much of the Asian financial hub’s economy looked on.

Protesters hold flowers to pay their respects to a man who fell to his death after hanging a protest banner (Kin Cheung/AP)
Protesters hold flowers to pay their respects to a man who fell to his death after hanging a protest banner (Kin Cheung/AP)

“Our demands are simple,” said bank worker John Chow as he marched with a group of friends.

“Carrie Lam must leave office, the extradition law must be withdrawn and the police must apologise for using extreme violence against their own people. And we will continue.”

Protesters have mainly focused their anger on Ms Lam, who had little choice but to carry through dictates issued by Beijing, where President Xi Jinping has enforced increasingly authoritarian rule.

Many believe Hong Kong’s legal autonomy has been significantly diminished despite Beijing’s insistence it is still honouring its promise – dubbed “one country, two systems” – that the territory can retain its own social, legal and political system for 50 years after the handover.

Protesters gather into the night (Kin Cheung/AP)
Protesters gather into the night (Kin Cheung/AP)

The rally drew marchers both young and old. Few wore face masks or seemed to be trying to hide their identities, in contrast with demonstrations on Wednesday, when participants expressed worries over possible retribution from the authorities.

The police presence was considerably more relaxed on Sunday, with officers deployed mainly to direct traffic as the protesters wound their way through Hong Kong’s commercial centre from a sprawling downtown park to government headquarters.

Farther down the parade route, mourners lined up to lay flowers and pay respects at a makeshift memorial for a man who fell to his death on Saturday after hanging a protest banner that read in part, “Make Love, No Shoot” and “No Extradition to China”.

Pro-democracy activists were calling for a general strike on Monday despite Ms Lam’s decision to suspend work on the legislation.

- Press Association

More on this topic

British Airways suspends flights to Cairo as security ‘precaution’British Airways suspends flights to Cairo as security ‘precaution’

Kilkenny send message with 22-point defeat of LimerickKilkenny send message with 22-point defeat of Limerick

Poll claims Fianna Fáil more popular than Fine Gael amid election speculationPoll claims Fianna Fáil more popular than Fine Gael amid election speculation

Appeal for witnesses after cyclist injured in hit-and-runAppeal for witnesses after cyclist injured in hit-and-run

More in this Section

Pro-Brexit group founder wins appeal against €22k EU referendum finePro-Brexit group founder wins appeal against €22k EU referendum fine

Japanese animation studio fire suspect named by policeJapanese animation studio fire suspect named by police

Man climbs down side of 19-storey building to escape fireMan climbs down side of 19-storey building to escape fire

17 people injured after two cars crash at UK charity car meet for bereaved families17 people injured after two cars crash at UK charity car meet for bereaved families


Lifestyle

Celebrate the anniversary by finding lift off without even leaving the earth, at these stateside visitor centres and museums, says Sarah Marshall.America’s top space-age attractions to celebrate 50 years since the moon landing

For bookworms and classic movie buffs, the notion of a London park will forever conjure up images of Mary Poppins with the Banks children in tow.Inside/ Out: Park life is looking up in London by Eve Kelliher

“Does anyone want to be my friend?” roared my five year old as he walked into the playground at our French campsite on holidays.Learner Dad: 'It can be heartbreaking watching your kids try make friends on holiday'

These handy product edits are so useful for travelling, says Katie Wright.Palettes pack a punch: The travel must have

More From The Irish Examiner