Wednesday, 17 July, 2019

Dissident joins protest after prison release

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Patty Aguilar | 17 June, 2019, 12:17

Most of the remaining demonstrators moved to a nearby park.

Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong called on the city's pro-Beijing leader Carrie Lam to resign after he walked free from prison on Monday, as historic anti-government protests rocked the city.

The ministry has called such rallies "riots" or "behaviour that undermines Hong Kong's peace and stability".

Almost 80 people were injured in this week's unrest, including 22 police officers, and one man died late Saturday when he fell from a building where he had been holding an hours-long anti-extradition protest.

A policeman fires with a pepper ball gun towards protesters near the Legislative Council in Hong Kong, June 12, 2019.

Video clips showing a crowd of Hong Kong protestors calmly parting Sunday to allow an ambulance to go through have gone viral on social media. Police said 338,000 were counted on the designated protest route in the "peak period" of the march.

Lam's office put out a statement late on Sunday admitting that shortcomings in how her administration handled the law had "led to a lot of conflict and disputes" and "disappointed and distressed many citizens". The next day, she announced the decision to postpone the bill.

Beijing-backed Lam Saturday indefinitely delayed the extradition bill that could send people to mainland China to face trial, expressing "deep sorrow and regret" although she stopped short of apologizing.

The protest size doubled the number of participants on the previous Sunday, with two of every seven people in the city taking part.

From Hong Kong's handover from the British to China in 1997 to the end of Tung Chee-hwa's (董建華) term as chief executive in 2005, Hong Kong maintained a semblance of its democratic system via established checks and balances on government power.

The worldwide finance hub was rocked Wednesday by the worst political violence since before its 1997 handover to China as tens of thousands of protesters were dispersed by baton-wielding riot police.

Protesters are also angered over the forceful tactics by police in quelling unrest at a demonstration on Wednesday.

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"You're supposed to protect us not shoot at us", read one banner.

Lam maintains that the extradition legislation is needed if Hong Kong is to uphold justice, meet its worldwide obligations and not become a magnet for fugitives.

Protestors believe that the chief executive has blood on her hands, not least for the police brutality that saw demonstrators hit by tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets. "They would simply have the Hong Kong authorities hand over whomever they wish to silence", Alviani said.

Wong, 22, and his pro-democracy Demosisto group played a key role in the "Occupy" protests that galvanised the city in 2014.

At the age of just 15, Wong campaigned successfully for Hong Kong to drop a pro-China "National Education" program, rallying a crowd of 120,000 to blockade the city's parliament for 10 days.

Political allies - and even Beijing - distanced themselves from her as public anger mounted. They point to the failure of the "Umbrella Movement" to win any concessions, the imprisonment of protest leaders, the disqualification of popular lawmakers and the disappearance of Beijing-critical booksellers, among recent examples.

Protesters will be buoyed by the release from jail on Monday of the prominent activist Joshua Wong, who was the face of the umbrella movement in 2014.

Former Hong Kong legislator Lee Cheuk-yan says the activists' mission has become a long-term struggle and not a daily struggle.

Huge protests continue in Hong Kong despite the island's leader Carrie Lam issuing an apology for her handling of a highly-controversial extradition bill.

Many residents of Hong Kong are increasingly unnerved by Beijing's tightening grip and what they see as the erosion of its freedoms, fearing that changes to the rule of law could imperil its status as a global financial center.

But critics - including legal and rights groups - say officers used the actions of a tiny group of violent protesters as an excuse to unleash a sweeping crackdown on the predominantly young, peaceful protesters.

Asked repeatedly on Saturday if she would step down, Lam avoided answering directly and appealed to the public to "give us another chance". "They will keep the heat on and ride the momentum".

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