Moth­ers rally as Hong Kong’s divide deep­ens

Antelope Valley Press (Sunday) - - Second Front -

HONG KONG ( AP) — Hong Kong’s po­lit­i­cal di­vi­sions showed no sign of clos­ing as stu­dents re­buffed an of­fer from city leader Car­rie Lam to meet and a few thou­sand moth­ers ral­lied in sup­port of young pro­test­ers who left a trail of de­struc­tion in the leg­is­la­ture’s build­ing at the start of the week.

“Don’t feel lonely, dad and mum will sup­port you,” read one of many hand­writ­ten mes­sages held aloft at a “Hong Kong Moth­ers” rally Fri­day.

Univer­sity pro­fes­sor Seal­ing Cheng asked who was re­spon­si­ble for the de­struc­tion of the leg­is­la­ture, im­ply­ing that an ar­ro­gant gov­ern­ment had driven the pro­test­ers to break into the build­ing and ram­page through it.

“Our hearts ache for the young pro­test­ers and our so­ci­ety torn apart,” she said in a speech to the crowd of mostly women.

The main­land’s eco­nomic in­flu­ence loomed large at the rally, held in a square un­der the tow­er­ing of­fices of the Bank of China and other Chi­nese banks. Many young peo­ple feel left out of the China-driven econ­omy, strug­gling to make ends meet and stuck in tiny apart­ments be­cause of soar­ing real es­tate prices. They think a demo­crat­i­cally elected gov­ern­ment would be more re­spon­sive to their needs than one cho­sen by pro-Bei­jing elites who ben­e­fit from the eco­nomic ties to the main­land.

The Mon­day night as­sault on the leg­is­la­ture — in which glass walls were shat­tered, slo­gans spray-painted over the walls and the elec­tronic vot­ing sys­tem de­stroyed — seems to have hard­ened po­si­tions on both sides.

The pro-Bei­jing es­tab­lish­ment con­demned the vi­o­lence, as did the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment. On the other side, a large swath of Hong Kong’s pop­u­la­tion ex­pressed sym­pa­thy for the stu­dents, see­ing them as hav­ing sac­ri­ficed for a shared cause, that of pre­vent­ing an ero­sion of free­doms and in­creased Chi­nese in­flu­ence over the ter­ri­tory.

Lam, who dis­ap­peared from pub­lic view for two weeks as protests mounted, pledged to do a bet­ter job of lis­ten­ing to the voices of young peo­ple in a morn­ing speech on Mon­day, a hol­i­day that marked the 22nd an­niver­sary of the re­turn of Hong Kong from British rule to China.

But her in­vi­ta­tion later in the week to meet be­hind closed doors was re­buffed by stu­dent unions at two Hong Kong uni­ver­si­ties as in­sin­cere and a pub­lic­ity gim­mick.

Stu­dent lead­ers said at a news con­fer­ence Fri­day that any meet­ing should be pub­lic and in­clude a wider rep­re­sen­ta­tion than just them. They also de­manded that pro­test­ers, dozens of whom have

been ar­rested, would not be pros­e­cuted.

“A closed-door meet­ing does not have any wit­nesses to prove what was dis­cussed, the pub­lic does not know what the di­a­logue was about,” said Jor­dan Pang from the Univer­sity of Hong Kong Stu­dents’ Union. Ng Yat Ming, vice pres­i­dent of the Hong Kong Univer­sity of Science and Tech­nol­ogy Stu­dents’ Union, said they would be con­demned as traitors if they ne­go­ti­ated with Lam on be­half of the pub­lic.

“We be­lieve it is a PR stunt,” he said.

Young peo­ple have taken the lead in protest­ing against Lam’s now-sus­pended pro­posal to al­low the ex­tra­di­tion of sus­pects to main­land China. Many saw the pro­posed leg­is­la­tion as a threat to the rights guar­an­teed to Hong Kong un­der the “one coun­try, two sys­tems” frame­work that gov­erns it.

Lam sus­pended the bills in­def­i­nitely af­ter a huge protest march on June 9 and then a June 12 demon­stra­tion that blocked ac­cess to the leg­is­la­ture and nearby streets.

The pro­test­ers re­main un­sat­is­fied. Their de­mands in­clude the for­mal with­drawal of the bills, Lam’s res­ig­na­tion, the re­lease of dozens of ar­rested pro­test­ers and an in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion into a po­lice crack­down on the June 12 protest that in­cluded tear gas and rub­ber bul­lets.

They blocked streets and gov­ern­ment build­ings and be­sieged the po­lice head­quar­ters twice be­fore storm­ing the leg­is­la­ture on Mon­day. The Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil has sus­pended meet­ings un­til Oc­to­ber for re­pairs to the heav­ily dam­aged com­plex.

One pro­tester charged in a siege of po­lice head­quar­ters on June 21 ap­peared in court Fri­day, Hong Kong me­dia re­ported. He was the first of those ar­rested to do so.

Pun Ho-chiu has been charged with as­sault­ing eight po­lice of­fi­cers, dam­ag­ing walls and es­ca­la­tors at po­lice head­quar­ters and be­hav­ing in a dis­or­derly man­ner, pub­lic broad­caster RTHK said on its web­site. He was de­nied bail.

Pun ac­cused po­lice of mis­treat­ing him while in cus­tody, ac­cord­ing to the me­dia re­ports. The judge said the com­plaints are out­side the court’s man­date.

As­so­ci­ated Press

A beam of spot­lights is cast on a woman face as she and at­ten­dees hold up tied mes­sage-writ­ten ban­ners dur­ing a rally by moth­ers in sup­port of stu­dent pro­test­ers in Hong Kong on Fri­day.

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