The Washington Post

Pro­test­ers fill Hong Kong streets

Hun­dreds of thou­sands rally against bill al­low­ing ex­tra­di­tions to China

- BY GERRY SHIH AND TI­MOTHY MCLAUGHLIN

Cor­po­rate lawyers and univer­sity stu­dents, housewives and re­li­gious lead­ers, mi­grant work­ers and artists — a cross-sec­tion of so­ci­ety rose up Sun­day in one of the largest demon­stra­tions in Hong Kong’s his­tory to protest a pro­posed ex­tra­di­tion law that many fear would fi­nally break the dam hold­ing back China’s surg­ing in­flu­ence over the po­lit­i­cal haven.

De­spite swel­ter­ing heat and storm clouds gath­er­ing over­head, sev­eral hun­dred thou­sand peo­ple turned out for Sun­day’s march in de­fi­ant scenes rem­i­nis­cent of the Oc­cupy Cen­tral move­ment in 2014 and a mass rally in 2003 that ef­fec­tively shelved a con­tro­ver­sial sedi­tion law backed by Bei­jing. Many said they were join­ing a demon­stra­tion for the first time be­cause they viewed it as a last chance to voice their out­rage as Hong Kong’s po­lit­i­cal free­doms shrivel.

Shortly af­ter mid­night, when the gov­ern­ment per­mit for the demon­stra­tion ex­pired, clashes broke out be­tween po­lice and hun­dreds of pro­test­ers at Hong Kong’s leg­isla­tive build­ing. Po­lice in riot gear charged in with shields and fired pep­per spray to dis­perse the crowd.

Leg­is­la­tors in Hong Kong — which was promised semi­au­ton­omy by the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment un­der a 1997 han­dover agree­ment with Bri­tain — are ex­pected to vote this month on a bill that would al­low lo­cal courts to con­sider ex­tra­di­tion re­quests from coun­tries in­clud­ing main­land China.

Crit­ics of the bill, in­clud­ing many mem­bers of the city’s le­gal and ju­di­cial com­mu­nity, say the mea­sure is be­ing rushed through Hong Kong’s leg­isla­tive process. They say it would give Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties the power to ex­tra­dite po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents with­out lo­cal leg­isla­tive over­sight.

The city has been shaken since 2016 by the grow­ing reach of Chi­nese se­cu­rity forces, which have ab­ducted dis­si­dent pub­lish­ers and busi­ness ex­ec­u­tives off the streets with­out the le­gal cover of ex­tra­di­tion pro­ceed­ings.

Two decades af­ter it re­turned to Chi­nese con­trol, the former Bri­tish colony has also seen elec­toral and press free­doms shrink. The ex­tra­di­tion law, broad swaths of Hong Kong’s le­gal,

busi­ness and non­profit com­mu­ni­ties say, would be a death blow to the city’s po­lit­i­cal au­ton­omy.

Hours be­fore the start of Sun­day’s march, the Hong Kong gov­ern­ment said the pro­posed mea­sure would not “in any way im­pact on, in­ter­fere with, or have a chilling ef­fect on the free­dom of assem­bly, of the press, of speech, of aca­demic free­dom or pub­li­ca­tion; or re­late to of­fenses of a po­lit­i­cal na­ture.”

Safe­guards have been built into Hong Kong’s ju­di­cial sys­tem, which op­er­ates “free from any in­ter­fer­ence,” the gov­ern­ment said in a state­ment.

Those as­sur­ances, which have been re­it­er­ated in re­cent weeks by the city’s pro-Bei­jing chief ex­ec­u­tive, Carrie Lam, failed to keep de­mon­stra­tors at home. For hours on Sun­day, they streamed out of the sub­way, through al­ley­ways and from bus stops onto Hen­nessey Road, Hong Kong’s main east-west artery, form­ing a slow-mov­ing pro­ces­sion that stretched for miles down the canyon-like boule­vard.

Po­lice said the turnout was about 240,000, one of the largest in re­cent mem­ory. But march or­ga­niz­ers from the Civil Hu­man Rights Front es­ti­mated the crowd at more than 1 mil­lion, pos­si­bly mak­ing the demon­stra­tion the largest in Hong Kong his­tory.

Chant­ing “Hoi Lo! Hoi Lo!” — open the street! — marchers surged through po­lice bar­ri­cades and down Hen­nessy Road to sur­round the Hong Kong leg­isla­tive build­ing. Urged on by drums and or­ga­niz­ers with bull­horns, they crossed their arms over­head in an “X” shape and de­manded “No China ex­tra­di­tion!” and “Step down, Carrie Lam!”

In in­ter­views, many said they were join­ing a protest for the first time in their lives, mo­ti­vated by what they said was an alarm­ing slide in Hong Kong’s po­lit­i­cal free­doms. Oth­ers said they feared their city is des­tined to fall fully un­der Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Party con­trol.

But not on Sun­day.

“I’ll be hon­est, this prob­a­bly won’t change a thing,” said Web­ster Kan, 46, a leather crafts­man march­ing with his wife and 11year-old son. “But this is our last chance to ex­press our­selves be­fore the gate fully opens, to say what kind of so­ci­ety we want, and what we want to leave be­hind.”

Or­ga­niz­ers and po­lit­i­cal ac­tivists said that op­po­si­tion to the ex­tra­di­tion mea­sure was un­usu­ally broad and that they were able to gar­ner more sup­port com­pared with pre­vi­ous demon­stra­tions, such as the Oc­cupy Cen­tral and Um­brella Move­ment in 2014 that sought uni­ver­sal suf­frage.

Denise Ho, a singer and prom­i­nent ac­tivist, said Hong Kong seems po­lit­i­cally re­vi­tal­ized

41/ years af­ter the Um­brella

2

Move­ment fiz­zled.

“Peo­ple are start­ing to see how hor­ren­dous this bill is that [law­mak­ers] are push­ing ahead,” Ho said. “Peo­ple are com­ing back. Hong Kongers who tried so hard to do some­thing for the city and then gave up are com­ing back.”

An­thony Lau, a 27-year-old cor­po­rate re­cruiter, said he and his par­ents had never be­fore par­tic­i­pated in a protest. The ex­tra­di­tion law would af­fect ev­ery­one in Hong Kong, he said, in­clud­ing the busi­ness com­mu­nity.

“This will ef­fec­tively end the ‘one coun­try, two sys­tems’ pol­icy,” Lau said, the frame­work that gave Hong Kong a de­gree of po­lit­i­cal au­ton­omy from Bei­jing.

More than 3,000 lawyers and judges held a silent march last week to ex­press con­cern about the bill, which they said was be­ing ad­vanced too hastily. Busi­ness lob­bies have warned about the mea­sure’s im­pli­ca­tions.

The turnout Sun­day seemed to cut across Hong Kong so­ci­ety. Re­li­gious groups, hous­ing non­prof­its and univer­sity clubs mo­bi­lized their mem­bers. A po­lit­i­cally or­ga­nized group of housewives turned out, as did mi­grant work­ers from south­ern China.

Op­po­si­tion par­ties dis­trib­uted plac­ards lam­poon­ing Lam with the com­mu­nist ham­mer and sickle over her eye.

More than five hours into the march, tens of thou­sands of peo­ple still packed the streets sur­round­ing the Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil Com­plex and slowly cir­cled the build­ing in what they said was a test run. Or­ga­niz­ers warned that they would es­ca­late their protest and block the leg­is­la­ture if it passed the bill.

By night­fall, the gov­ern­ment’s of­fi­cial news site had car­ried no men­tion of the protest. The site said Lam spent the day ad­dress­ing the Hong Kong Young Acad­emy of Sciences, where she dis­cussed in­vest­ments in science and tech­nol­ogy.

Later, the gov­ern­ment said it would proceed with the next hear­ing for the bill on Wed­nes­day.

“The pro­ces­sion to­day is an ex­am­ple of Hong Kong peo­ple ex­er­cis­ing their free­dom of ex­pres­sion within their rights as en­shrined in the Ba­sic Law and the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Or­di­nance,” the gov­ern­ment said in a state­ment. “At the time of this state­ment, we note that apart from some ob­struc­tions to traf­fic, the march, though large, was gen­er­ally peace­ful and or­derly.”

Af­ter mid­night, hun­dreds of pro­test­ers at­tempted to stage a sit-in at the leg­isla­tive build­ing, and po­lice moved in. Be­fore those skir­mishes broke out, po­lice had made seven ar­rests dur­ing the day­time demon­stra­tion, of­fi­cials said.

Ral­lies in op­po­si­tion to the bill were or­ga­nized in nearly 30 cities across a dozen coun­tries — in­clud­ing Aus­tralia, Ja­pan, Ger­many and the United States.

Pres­i­dent Tsai Ing-wen of Tai­wan — the de facto in­de­pen­dent is­land that Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping has sought to ab­sorb by promis­ing it po­lit­i­cal au­ton­omy — warned her peo­ple that she would never ac­cept such a deal from Bei­jing.

“We stand with all free­domlov­ing peo­ple of #HongKong,” Tsai said in a tweet. “As long as I’m Pres­i­dent, ‘one coun­try, two sys­tems’ will never be an op­tion.”

The Hong Kong mea­sure has also drawn at­ten­tion in Wash­ing­ton. The Con­gres­sional-Ex­ec­u­tive Com­mis­sion on China, a U.S. gov­ern­ment agency, has warned that the ex­tra­di­tion law could vi­o­late pro­vi­sions of the U.S.-Hong Kong Pol­icy Act, which al­lows for wide-reach­ing eco­nomic and trade re­la­tions with Hong Kong on the con­di­tion that China uphold its prom­ise of grant­ing Hong Kong a “high de­gree of au­ton­omy.”

Ac­tivists and law­mak­ers in­clud­ing Rep. Christo­pher H. Smith (R-N.J.), a mem­ber of the com­mis­sion, have called on Pres­i­dent Trump to con­sider can­cel­ing the agree­ment.

Nathan Law, a former law­maker and pro-democ­racy ac­tivist in Hong Kong, said he was sur­prised by how quickly and widely op­po­si­tion to the bill has grown, in­clud­ing from con­ser­va­tive­lean­ing re­li­gious or­ga­ni­za­tions.

Since the 2014 protests, “peo­ple have been through a pe­riod of feel­ing hap­less and help­less be­cause the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Party is so strong,” Law said. “We have been through a low point, but now peo­ple are re-en­er­gized.”

Kwong Sau-shan, a 70-year-old re­tiree, said she marched even though the chances of Hong Kong re­sist­ing Bei­jing were very slim.

“I just hope we can do some­thing,” she said. “This is our last stand.”

“This is our last chance to ex­press our­selves be­fore the gate fully opens, to say what kind of so­ci­ety we want, and what we want to leave be­hind.” Web­ster Kan, leather crafts­man

 ?? VIN­CENT YU/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS ?? Po­lice of­fi­cers clash with hun­dreds who re­fused to leave early Mon­day af­ter the Hong Kong gov­ern­ment per­mit for the largely peace­ful demon­stra­tion ex­pired. The city has been shaken by the grow­ing reach of Chi­nese se­cu­rity forces and ero­sion of po­lit­i­cal free­doms.
VIN­CENT YU/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS Po­lice of­fi­cers clash with hun­dreds who re­fused to leave early Mon­day af­ter the Hong Kong gov­ern­ment per­mit for the largely peace­ful demon­stra­tion ex­pired. The city has been shaken by the grow­ing reach of Chi­nese se­cu­rity forces and ero­sion of po­lit­i­cal free­doms.
 ?? JEROME FAVRE/EPA-EFE/SHUTTERSTO­CK ?? Po­lice said turnout was about 240,000, one of the largest in re­cent mem­ory. But or­ga­niz­ers es­ti­mated the crowd at more than 1 mil­lion, pos­si­bly mak­ing the demon­stra­tion the largest in Hong Kong his­tory.
JEROME FAVRE/EPA-EFE/SHUTTERSTO­CK Po­lice said turnout was about 240,000, one of the largest in re­cent mem­ory. But or­ga­niz­ers es­ti­mated the crowd at more than 1 mil­lion, pos­si­bly mak­ing the demon­stra­tion the largest in Hong Kong his­tory.
 ?? PHO­TOS BY KIN CHEUNG/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS ?? Pro­test­ers at­tempted to stage a sit-in at the leg­isla­tive build­ing af­ter mid­night, and po­lice moved in. Seven ar­rests were made dur­ing the day­time march, of­fi­cials said. The city’s gov­ern­ment said the pro­posed law would not “in any way im­pact on, in­ter­fere with, or have a chilling ef­fect on the free­dom of assem­bly, of the press, of speech, of aca­demic free­dom or pub­li­ca­tion; or re­late to of­fenses of a po­lit­i­cal na­ture.”
PHO­TOS BY KIN CHEUNG/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS Pro­test­ers at­tempted to stage a sit-in at the leg­isla­tive build­ing af­ter mid­night, and po­lice moved in. Seven ar­rests were made dur­ing the day­time march, of­fi­cials said. The city’s gov­ern­ment said the pro­posed law would not “in any way im­pact on, in­ter­fere with, or have a chilling ef­fect on the free­dom of assem­bly, of the press, of speech, of aca­demic free­dom or pub­li­ca­tion; or re­late to of­fenses of a po­lit­i­cal na­ture.”
 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA