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Large-Scale Protests Return to Hong Kong Despite Suspension of Extradition Bill
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=50988"><span class="small">Shibani Mahtani, The Washington Post</span></a>   
Sunday, 16 June 2019 08:26

Mahtani writes: "Protesters filled Hong Kong's streets again on Sunday, cramming subway stations and turning roads into a sea of black, in another massive hours-long demonstration against their government's handling of a proposal to allow extraditions to mainland China - even after the city's leader said she would suspend the bill."

Protesters filled Hong Kong's streets Sunday. (photo: Kin Cheung/AP)
Protesters filled Hong Kong's streets Sunday. (photo: Kin Cheung/AP)

Large-Scale Protests Return to Hong Kong Despite Suspension of Extradition Bill

By Shibani Mahtani, The Washington Post

16 June 19


rotesters filled Hong Kong’s streets again on Sunday, cramming subway stations and turning roads into a sea of black, in another massive hours-long demonstration against their government’s handling of a proposal to allow extraditions to mainland China — even after the city’s leader said she would suspend the bill. 

Demonstrations have now continued, in varying numbers, across the city for a week. Organizers said they believe this Sunday’s turnout rivaled or exceeded that of a march last week that drew more than 1 million participants — underscoring a growing and solidifying rupture between Hong Kong’s government, heavily influenced by Beijing authorities, and its people.

It has also delivered yet another embarrassment for Hong Kong’s chief executive, who finds herself increasingly isolated in the city despite her efforts to contain the growing anger. 

Carrie Lam, the territory’s chief executive, had said Saturday that she would suspend debate on the bill in an effort to “restore calm and peace” to Hong Kong. After protests swelled on Sunday, she issued a statement extending an apology to the citizens of Hong Kong, promising to “sincerely and humbly take criticism.”

But she stopped short of withdrawing the bill altogether, insisting the plans — which would allow fugitives to be extradited to countries without a formal treaty with Hong Kong, including mainland China — were “laudable.” 

Lam’s decision to back off the measure for now did not placate the hundreds of thousands who showed up in a march that stretched more than 3 miles in either direction from its planned starting point. The crowd included 27-year-old Sabrina, who believed the suspension of the bill has “changed nothing.”

“She is so evil,” said Sabrina, who only gave her first name for fear of retribution. She teared up as she spoke about Lam. “She hasn’t heard anything from us.”

Sunday’s crowd, no less fired up than in previous demonstrations, included the elderly, people with disabilities, children with their families, business executives, social workers and students, all demanding the permanent withdrawal of the extradition bill. The protesters, who waited for hours under a blazing sun to begin their march, sporadicallychanted for Lam to step down and for Hong Kong to “add oil” — a Cantonese cheer that means “keep going.” Banners called for Hong Kong’s independence.

By sundown, they’d packed major roads across the city — a thronging mass shuffling slowly toward government buildings, including the complex that houses Hong Kong’s legislature.

Police presence around these roads and buildings was extremely light in comparison to previous days. At one point, thousands of protesters tried to take over roads that were not closed by authorities for their march, including Harcourt Road — the main road around government buildings that protesters had occupied on Wednesday, prompting violent clashes with the police before they were cleared out.

Demonstrators held up signs calling for the government to withdraw charges against protesters arrested in Wednesday’s clashes and for “those who open fire to be held accountable” — a reference to what many perceived as police brutality in response to those demonstrations. Police fired 150 canisters of tear gas within a short period that afternoon, along with rubber bullets, bean bag rounds and other projectiles to clear protesters. 

“People are really angry about the police brutality, and the response of the government,” said Nathan Law, founder of the pro-democracy Demosistō.

One protester died Saturday after falling from a building on which he had draped a long banner saying “no extradition to China” and “total withdrawal of the extradition bill,” among other demands.

It is unclear how exactly he fell. But his death further galvanized some demonstrators. Some waited hours to leave flowers at the site of his death, where the smell of incense wafted. A painter in the crowd painted a portrait of the man, who was dressed in a yellow raincoat when he fell. One sign read: “You will be the last. No more.”

“It is important for us to remember how people have sacrificed themselves for this,” said Cindy, a 22-year-old protester who similarly only wanted her first name used, as she waited in a snaking line to lay down a single white carnation. “We are here because we love this place, and want to do what we can.”

The extradition plans were first floated after a gruesome murder in Taiwan, where officials say a pregnant woman was brutally killed by a Hong Kong resident who later admitted to the crime. Without an extradition treaty, prosecutors could not send him to Taiwan for trial, but also couldn’t charge him with murder in Hong Kong. He is in jail on a lesser crime.

Yet Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen has not pushed for the murder suspect to be sent to Taiwan, and instead has spoken up against the extradition bill, saying Thursday she would not become a “culprit to an evil law.” Taiwan has also said it will not be involved in any extradition proposals that imply they are part of mainland China.

The protesters on Sunday included Kai Chieh Hsu, a 29-year-old Taiwanese man who flew to Hong Kong to join the demonstrations. He said he was there in solidarity and didn’t want his own country cited as a reason for a new extradition law.

“Taiwan and Hong Kong, we are both bullied by” China, said Hsu. He said the murder case cited by Lam is terrible justification for the bill.

“I’m really angry that Taiwan is being blamed for this.”

Many in Taiwan have supported Hong Kong residents and expressed admiration for their fight. On Sunday afternoon, a group of Hong Kong students in Taipei organized a rally to support the protesters in their home city. 

On Thursday, some of the Hong Kong students met with Tsai’s secretary general, Chen Chu. Among other things, they asked Taiwan to establish protections for political refugees from Hong Kong and Macau. In April, Hong Kong bookseller Lam Wing-kee fled to Taiwan, citing a fear of being extradited to China. Taiwan does not have a formal refugee law and has maintained it will decide the status of dissidents on a case-by-case basis.

In Taipei, the Hong Kong protests are raising awareness of the potential effects of China’s influence. The extradition law has led people to “care more about the situation,” said Hong Kong student Katy Cheng, who has lived in Taiwan for three years. “They don’t want to be the next Hong Kong.”

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