Record-Breaking Protests In Hong Kong Continue
Demonstrations are likely to continue until a controversial extradition bill is completely withdrawn from consideration.
Throughout the month of June, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has faced increasing public pressure over a bill which would allow criminal extradition requests from governments in China, Macau, and Taiwan to be processed by Hong Kong courts. Currently, no such privileges are granted to the other autonomous regions.
Citizens of Hong Kong quickly began to protest the legislation, which Lam initially vowed to continue pushing forward. She stated that the bill is necessary to keep Hong Kong free of criminals, but protestors are concerned China would use such legislation as a weapon against political opponents.
Massive Protests Across Hong Kong
Organizers claim initial protests saw over one million citizens take the streets, which eventually led tens of thousands to block off government headquarters in an attempt to stop debate around the extradition bill. Within a week estimates of protest size doubled with police stating 338,000 concurrent protestors were on the streets during the apex of activity.
These numbers occurred after Lam suspended the bill but stopped short of completely withdrawing it from consideration. Protestors were not satisfied with the move by Lam, calling for her resignation — fearing she has become a puppet for the Chinese government.
The Chinese government is infamous for its human rights abuses, including the imprisonment of an estimated 1.5 million Uygur Muslims in reeducation camps. External influence by China on Hong Kong has already resulted in a drop of civil rights, however, Freedom House ranks Hong Kong as ‘partly free’ with a 59/100 rating. China, on the other hand; is rated as ‘not free’ with an 11/100 freedom score.
Joshua Wong, who became the face of the 2014 ‘Umbrella Movement’ which pushed for more democratic elections in Hong Kong was released during the height of demonstrations. “The young activist won an appeal of a separate conviction and six-month sentence for unlawful assembly and released after spending more than two months in prison in that case,” France 24 reports.
What’s Happening Now
Reporters in Hong Kong for The Guardian reported the following during another large demonstration on Friday:
“Protesters in Hong Kong closed tax, immigration and local government buildings, blockaded key roads through the city centre [sic] and massed in their thousands outside police headquarters to demand the release of detained activists and an apology for police brutality. Friday’s was the fourth major demonstration in the city in less than two weeks, and although smaller than the others, the crowd was committed, still filling the streets for more than 15 hours after an early morning start.”
“The police didn’t do justice to the citizens. They actually attacked us with teargas and unnecessary force,” said one young protester in the crowd to The Guardian. “We came here to tell the police we are not happy with what they did.” Police have used pepper spray, rubber bullets and tear gas on protestors in an attempt to disperse crowds, resulting in a number of injuries.
The crowds blocking police buildings had dispersed by Saturday morning in Hong Kong. Police released a strongly worded comment to the media shortly after the situation began to quiet down. “Police have shown the greatest tolerance to the protesters … but their means of expressing views have become illegal, irrational and unreasonable. Police will stringently follow up on these illegal activities.”