by WorldTribune Staff, June 17, 2019
Some 2 million protesters poured onto the streets of Hong Kong on June 16 to demand the withdrawal of bill that would allow people in Hong Kong to be extradited to China and the resignation of the city’s chief executive who strongly backed the bill.
In a loss of face for the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam offered a public apology and suspended the legislation, but many in the crowd said it was too little, too late.
“It is just a tactic by Carrie Lam to buy more time,” Louis Lo, a 52-year-old businessman told the Nikkei Asian Review. “She is not taking people’s demands seriously,” he said, adding that he hopes the march will force Lam to step down.
“Chief executive would like to extend her apologies to people in Hong Kong, and will accept criticism with the utmost sincerity and the most humble attitude,” a government spokesperson said in a statement.
In her statement, Lam admitted that “deficiencies in the government’s work had led to substantial controversies and disputes in society, causing disappointment and grief among the people.”
Lam’s statement said that “communication work [on] the proposal was not sufficient,” and emphasized that she made the decision to “restore the calmness of our society.”
If the extradition bill were to be implemented, many believe suspects would not receive a fair trial, sparking concern over the Hong Kong’s judicial independence and autonomy.
Organizers of the June 16 rally also demanded that protesters from a June 12 rally which drew 1 million people not face prosecution and that the demonstrations not be categorized as “riots,” which could potentially open up protesters to more serious charges, according to the Nikkei Asian Review report.
They organizers also denounced the use of what they say was excessive force by the police, who fired some 150 rounds of tear gas, dozens of rubber bullets and used pepper spray to clear out protesters at the June 12 demonstration who had blocked major roads around the government complex to stop a legislative debate on the bill.
More than 80 people were sent to the hospital in what was one of the city’s worst clashes between police and protesters, the Nikkei Asian Review report said.
Wing Loi, a 15-year-old secondary student, said she joined the June 17 rally because she was disappointed at the government’s handling of the strong opposition among Hong Kong citizens. “I was shocked that Lam completely ignored the protest of 1 million people,” she said.
Like many others, Loi said that she fears Lam will restart the bill’s legislative procedure because it was not completely scrapped. “I don’t trust her anymore,” she said.
A 59-year-old technician, who only gave his surname of To, said he came out “because our freedom is increasingly being squeezed.” He said that while the bill has been suspended for now, Beijing’s tightening control over Hong Kong will inevitably lead to the erosion of the “one country, two systems” legal framework when it was handed over to China from Britain in 1997.
To also criticized the police action against protesters on June 12. “It is the government who behaved like a mob, not the students.”