Tens of thousands in Hong Kong protest against extradition bill

08, Jul. 2019

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HONG KONG, Kyodo - Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday to vent their anger against the government's lack of action following weeks of protests against a controversial extradition bill that could allow the transfer of fugitives to mainland China.

The march in the tourist hotspot of Tsim Sha Tsui on the Kowloon Peninsula was mainly aimed at raising awareness of the bill among tourists, especially those traveling from mainland China, according to Ventus Lau of a netizen group that co-organized the march.

Lau said more than 230,000 took part, while police put the turnout at 56,000.

The demonstration ended at the newly built Guangdong-Shenzhen-Hong Kong high speed railway station, which Lau said symbolizes Hong Kong's connection to the mainland and is therefore an ideal place to sell peaceful protest to China.

“This is one of the ways to apply pressure on the government,” Lau said. “If we can spread the message of peaceful protest, then many mainlanders may learn from us and (stage) protests to fight for what they want.”

Millions of people have taken to the streets in numerous protests since last month against the contentious bill.

The bill was suspended and Chief Executive Carrie Lam apologized for the unrest after a massive protest on June 12 ended in a bloody crackdown by police using tear gas and other equipment during the mostly peaceful protest.

A protest on Monday last week saw some protesters breaking into and vandalizing the Legislative Council building, in what was said to be a last-ditch effort to draw the government's attention to protesters' demands for a complete withdrawal of the bill.

In addition to the bill's withdrawal, they are demanding a probe into allegations of excessive force by police in the June 12 crackdown, and a pardon of all protesters.

“We just have to keep protesting,” said Yo Lee, a 38-year-old youth services worker. “We want to tell the mainland visitors about our plight, to let as many people know as possible.”

Mary Ma, a 31-year-old social worker, said the government's lack of response is unacceptable.

“Suspending the legislation is just a smokescreen,” Ma said. “We want withdrawal, not suspension.”

The government has declined to completely scrap the bill, claiming the “indefinite suspension” will have the same effect, and has remained reluctant to set up any inquiry that it claimed might hit police morale.

Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung, the government's No. 2 official, said ahead of the protest that the government will “listen to the people” but did not respond to any of the demands. (Kyodo)

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