Joshua Wong, Released From Jail, Calls For Withdrawal of Extradition Law

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Protesters jamming Hong Kong's streets to demand the 'complete withdrawal' of a bill allowing extraditions to mainland China clear way for an ambulance, June 16, 2019.
Protesters jamming Hong Kong's streets to demand the 'complete withdrawal' of a bill allowing extraditions to mainland China clear way for an ambulance, June 16, 2019.

The organizers of Sunday's two-million strong protest against a plan by the Hong Kong government to allow extradition to mainland China vowed to keep up the pressure on the administration of chief executive Carrie Lam, as former protest leader Joshua Wong was released from prison.

Wong's first comment on being released from jail, where he had been serving a sentence for contempt of court, was to call for the total withdrawal of amendments to current extradition law, and for Lam's resignation.

"Hello world and hello freedom. I have just been released from prison," Wong tweeted. "GO HONG KONG!!"

He added: "Withdraw the extradition bill. Carrie Lam step down. Drop all political prosecutions!"

Wong, now secretary-general of the political party Demosisto, said the scale of recent protests in Hong Kong had surprised him.

"When I was sent to prison on May 16, I never thought that, just one month later, there would be such a huge protest by the people of Hong Kong, telling the world that they wouldn't be silenced," Wong told supporters.

"When I was in prison, I watched Carrie Lam cry on live TV, but all I can say is that while she shed tears, Hong Kong people were shedding blood in Admiralty [on June 12]," Wong said.

"Let's keep up the struggle in the days and weeks to come, until we can finally say that we have a decisive victory in the anti-extradition campaign," he said.

Wong said he blames Lam for the current political crisis in Hong Kong.

"She is no longer an appropriate person to be chief executive," he said. "She should step down immediately and be accountable for her actions."

"We will show the whole world that Hong Kong will never give up in the face of authoritarian power," Wong said.

Two million clog streets

Two million people flooded several streets on a massive march on Sunday, that was in part sparked by public anger over the use of tear gas, rubber and bean bag bullets, and batons against unarmed protesters on June 12.

A protester surnamed Fung who was there said many young people had been adversely affected by the tear gas.

"Even if you are wearing a mask, it's pretty useless, because you keep coughing and it's very hard to breathe," she said. "It's much worse than you'd think."

She said she had tried to take refuge in a shopping mall after police started firing tear gas.

"The whole mall was full of tear gas, all up the stairwells; you could smell it everywhere," she said. "Everyone's eyes were red with it and they couldn't open their eyes."

"I heard someone shouting for a defibrillator, and others were shouting for asthma medications: that's how bad it got," Fung said. "A lot of people never expected it to be that bad."

A student surnamed Lam said he wouldn't give up protesting, even if the authorities used live-fire ammunition, however.

"Even if they shot at us with guns, I would be willing to give up my life, for real," Lam said. "I thought that from day one. If the government doesn't withdraw [the amendments], I am very clear that I will do whatever it takes: I don't care about anything else."

As an overnight occupation of the main urban highway outside government headquarters dissipated, the Civil Human Rights Front, which estimated turnout on Sunday's march at close to two million, called for a series of smaller protests and strikes to keep up pressure on the government.

The protesters are unhappy that Lam only announced that the amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance would be postponed, rather than completely withdrawn, that she sought to justify police violence against unarmed protesters last Wednesday, and refused to retract the government's description of that protest as a "riot."

Strikes, boycotts, prayers

They have vowed to continue protesting until the amendments are fully withdrawn, and Lam has resigned.

The Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, the largest independent trade union association in Hong Kong, held a rally outside the Legislative Council (LegCo), while religious groups kept up a continual series of prayer meetings and hymn-singing.

"The whole office has taken a day off today to come here for this," a participant surnamed Yuen told RFA. "Hong Kong is our home, and we have to protect our freedoms and rule of law. If you're not protected in a place, how can you call it home?"

High school students were planning a collective "study-on-the-street" on Monday, boycotting class to do so, according to an announcement on the Civil Human Rights Front Facebook page.

Social welfare sector workers also called a strike, while manual and casual laborers held a rally in protest at the extradition law.

A memorial rally for a protester who fell to his death after hanging banners calling for the withdrawal of the extradition law from a shopping mall roof was planned for the evening in Tamar Park outside government headquarters, the group said.

"[We want] total withdrawal of the amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance, for the police responsible for firing [rubber and bean bag bullets] on protesters to be held to account, and for the release and dropping of all charges against arrested protesters," it said.

"[We also demand] the retraction of the description of the June 12 protest as a riot, and for Carrie Lam to take responsibility and resign," it said.

By evening, thousands of protesters had gathered on Lung Wah Road, on the other side of government headquarters from the previous night's occupation, with many protesters holding up signs that read: "No leaving without withdrawal."

Some 10 police vans and several dozen police officers and government security officials had gathered at the scene, but there was no sign of police in full riot gear.

'Carrie Lam betrayed Hong Kong!'

Led by pro-democracy lawmakers Au Nok-hin, Eddie Chu and Gary Fan, one group gathered outside the office of the chief executive, calling for her resignation, and for dialogue with the administration.

"Carrie Lam, come out and talk! Carrie Lam betrayed Hong Kong!" they chanted.

"I am very disappointed in her, because she hasn't come here today to speak to the people," Au told RFA. "Neither has she engaged in a public dialogue with any sincerity."

A student surnamed Ho said said he wanted Lam to come out and explain her responses in person.

"I don't want her responding to us through behind-the-scenes meetings or press releases," he said.

An office worker surnamed Shek said Lam's apology was too little, too late, and had only come after the death of a protester.

"She only apologized when blood had been shed, and she completely ignored all of the people asking her at the news conference whether she would resign," Shek said. "I find it unacceptable that she only says anything after a major event has occurred."

The amendments, which Lam has said need to be put on hold and re-explained, not withdrawn, are widely seen as a huge threat to Hong Kong's way of life, which was supposed to have been protected under the "one country, two systems" framework under which the former British colony was handed back to China in 1997.

If they become law, the city could lose its status as a separate legal jurisdiction and trading entity, while journalists, visitors, rights activists, dissidents, democratic politicians, and the business community could be targeted for words and actions deemed illegal by the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Fox News on Sunday he was certain Hong Kong would be raised in talks between Presidents Donald Tump and Xi Jinping.

“I think we’ll get the opportunity to see President Xi in just a couple weeks now at the G20 summit. I’m sure this will be among the issues that they discuss,” Pompeo said.

China has yet to confirm whether Xi will meet Trump at the G20 summit in Osaka, which comes as the two powers are embroiled in a protracted trade war. On Friday, China summoned Robert Forden, deputy chief of mission at the US embassy in Beijing, to protest against Washington’s interference in Hong Kong’s extradition bill debate.

On Monday, Beijing again warned off foreign critics.

“If there are some foreign leaders or foreign parties who are genuine and sincere about wanting to understand China’s policy and the considerations behind it, we are always open about that,” foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said.

“But if there is anyone who is prejudiced against China’s domestic affairs, including what happened in Hong Kong … and uses [the Hong Kong issue] to interfere in China’s domestic affairs, China’s position is clear – we would resolutely oppose it.”

Reported by Wong Lok-to and Lee Wang-yam for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Chen Meihua and Gao Feng for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

Comments (1)

Anonymous Reader

Wow! What did the Red Chinese say again ? If someone wants to understand China they're open about it. The whole world understands you. You're oppressing your own people and make them your slaves.

Jun 18, 2019 03:25 AM





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