Protesters march in Hong Kong, piling pressure on leader

Protesters march in Hong Kong, piling pressure on leader

Tens of thousands of Hong Kong residents have jammed the city’s streets in a march protesting the government’s handling of a proposed extradition bill.

The crowds, walking slowly and shouting “withdraw” and “resign”, spilled into the streets from Victoria Park and began marching towards the Central district where the government headquarters is located.

The demonstrators carried banners demanding that chief executive Carrie Lam resign and drop the legislation completely instead of just suspending it as she announced on Saturday.

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

The march looks likely to match in scale one a week earlier that brought as many as a million out to express their concern over the former British colony’s relations with mainland China.

Farther down the parade route, mourners lined up to pay their 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”.

Mourners stop by a makeshift memorial (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
Mourners stop by a makeshift memorial (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

The man slipped from the grasp of rescuers after clinging for a time to scaffolding outside a shopping centre. He missed a big cushion set up to capture him, and was declared dead at a nearby hospital.

Pro-democracy activists are calling for a general strike on Monday despite Ms Lam’s decision to suspend work on the legislation. Some labour unions, teachers associations and other groups are planning boycotts of work and classes.

“We encourage all the public to carry on the campaign,” said Bonny Leung and other leaders of the pro-democracy Civil Human Rights Front.

Many opponents of the extradition legislation are urging Ms Lam to step down and want her to drop the legislation, which many fear would undermine freedoms enjoyed by this former British colony but not elsewhere in China.

The communist government in Beijing issued multiple statements backing Ms Lam’s decision, which she announced in a news conference on Saturday.

The battle over legislation has evolved into Hong Kong’s toughest political test since the Communist Party-ruled mainland took control in 1997 with a promise not to interfere with the city’s civil liberties and courts.

Demonstrations on Wednesday turned violent, with dozens injured as police fought back with tear gas, rubber bullets and other forceful measures.

A worker cleans up in the aftermath of protests (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
A worker cleans up in the aftermath of protests (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

Ms Lam has said the extradition legislation is needed for Hong Kong to uphold justice, meet its international obligations and not become a magnet for fugitives. The proposed bill would expand the scope of criminal suspect transfers to include Taiwan, Macau and mainland China.

China has been excluded from Hong Kong’s extradition agreements because of concerns over its judicial independence and human rights record.

Ms Lam has sidestepped questions over whether she should quit and said she still plans to seek passage of the proposed amendment. She also defended how the police dealt with the clashes with demonstrators.

But she said she was suspending the bill indefinitely. It was time, she said, “for responsible government to restore as quickly as possible this calmness in society”.

“I want to stress that the government is adopting an open mind,” she said. “We have no intention to set a deadline for this work.”

- Press Association

Hong Kong set for street march as protester death mourned

Protesters march in Hong Kong, piling pressure on leader

Hong Kong was bracing for another massive protest on Sunday over an unpopular extradition bill that has highlighted the territory’s apprehension about relations with mainland China.

Pro-democracy activists said chief executive Carrie Lam’s announcement on Saturday that she was suspending work on the bill that would allow some suspects to be sent for trial in mainland Chinese courts is not enough.

A week after the crisis brought as many as 1 million into the streets, the activists said they want the proposal withdrawn and are calling for Ms Lam to step down.

The communist government in Beijing issued statements backing Ms Lam’s decision.

Over the past week, hundreds of thousands marched to demand the chief executive drop the legislation, which many fear would undermine freedoms enjoyed by this former British colony but not elsewhere in China.

A worker cleans up in the aftermath of protests (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
A worker cleans up in the aftermath of protests (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

The battle over legislation has evolved into Hong Kong’s most severe political test since the Communist Party-ruled mainland took control in 1997 with a promise not to interfere with the city’s civil liberties and courts.

On Sunday, mourners laid flowers on the pavement near where a man fell to his death a day earlier after hanging a protest banner on scaffolding on a shopping mall.

Emergency workers tried to cushion the man’s fall but failed to catch him.

Critics said Ms Lam should withdraw the plan for good, resign and apologise for police use of potentially lethal force during clashes with protesters on Wednesday.

“Democrats in Hong Kong simply cannot accept this suspension decision,” said politician Claudia Mo. “Because the suspension is temporary. The pain is still there.”

The decision was “too little, too late,” she said.

“Hong Kong people have been lied to so many times,” said Bonny Leung, a leader of the Civil Human Rights Front, one of the groups that has helped organise the demonstrations.

Ms Lam has said the legislation is needed if Hong Kong to uphold justice, meet its international obligations and not become a magnet for fugitives.

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

The proposed bill would expand the scope of criminal suspect transfers to include Taiwan, Macau and mainland China.

China has been excluded from Hong Kong’s extradition agreements because of concerns over its judicial independence and human rights record.

Speaking to reporters after announcing her decision on Saturday, Ms Lam sidestepped questions over whether she should quit. She insisted she was not withdrawing the proposed amendment and defended the police.

But she said she was suspending the bill indefinitely.

It was time, she said, “for responsible government to restore as quickly as possible this calmness in society”.

“I want to stress that the government is adopting an open mind,” she said. “We have no intention to set a deadline for this work.”

She emphasised that a chief concern was to avoid further injuries both for the public and for police.

About 80 people were hurt in the clashes this past week, more than 20 of them police.

“It’s possible there might be even worse confrontations that might be replaced by very serious injuries to my police colleagues and the public,” she said. “I don’t want any of those injuries to happen.”

Ms Lam apologised for what she said were failures in her government’s work to win public support for the bill, which is opposed by a wide range of sectors in Hong Kong, including many teachers, students, lawyers and trade unions.

But she insisted the bill was still needed. “Give us another chance,” she said.

The extradition bill has drawn criticism from US and British lawmakers and human rights groups, prompting Beijing to lash back with warnings against “interference” in its internal affairs.

But analysts said China also has to weigh the risk of seeing Hong Kong, a vital port and financial centre of 7 million people, possibly losing its special economic status.

Under the 1992 US-Hong Kong Policy Act, Beijing needs to abide by its “one country, two systems” promises to respect the territory’s legal autonomy for 50 years as promised under the agreement signed with Britain for the 1997 handover.

- Press Association

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