Activist Joshua Wong has called on the international community to step up support for Hong Kong ahead of China's National Day celebrations on Oct. 1, saying that the most important battle now is to secure democratic elections for the city.
Wong, who is currently on bail on charges of "illegal assembly" linked to an anti-extradition protest outside Hong Kong police headquarters, was speaking on a trip to the democratic island of Taiwan.
"In the run-up to Oct. 1, there will be a series of activities around the world to defend freedom, support Hong Kong, and push back against Beijing," Wong said.
"We appeal for support for Hong Kong in implementing democratic elections ... especially from Taiwan," Wong said after visiting Taiwan's parliament, the Legislative Yuan, describing the island as "a beacon of freedom and democracy in Asia."
Wong dismissed Wednesday's announcement by Hong Kong's leader Carrie Lam, that she plans to formally withdraw planned amendments to the city's extradition laws that would enable the rendition of alleged criminal suspects to face trial in mainland China.
"The Hong Kong government decided [to announce] it would withdraw the amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance on Sept. 4," Wong said.
"That is hugely different from doing so in June, because 1,200 people have now been arrested, and charges brought against more than 100 of them. Seven young Hong Kong people even took their own lives because of the protests."
"So, our protests will continue for as long as we are facing police violence, and an unelected chief executive," he said.
Taiwan an example
Hong Kong lawmaker Eddie Chu said Taiwan's experience of democratic reforms was a necessary touchstone for democracy activists in Hong Kong.
"As it fights for freedom and democracy on this significant date of Oct. 1, Hong Kong's experience is very close to Taiwan's," Chu said.
"I hope everyone will come out in a mass protest march ... to call for freedom and democracy for Hong Kong, for Taiwan, and for all of the peoples of the world."
Ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmaker Kuan Bi-ling said her party has long supported democracy, freedom, and human rights for Hong Kong, and has repeatedly called on the administration of chief executive Carrie Lam to respond with humility to the protesters' demands.
"The incidents we have seen in Hong Kong have been bathed in blood and tears since the outset, and there is still no end in sight," Kuan said.
She warned against trying to smear humanitarian concern for the people of Hong Kong for political gain, ahead of presidential elections in 2020.
"Any political party that tries to smear humanitarian concern, care, and support for what is going on in Hong Kong ... has failed the basic test of humanity," Kuan said.
'Basis for dialogue'
Back in Hong Kong, Lam denied claims that her pledge to withdraw the amendments when the city's Legislative Council (LegCo) reconvenes in October is a precursor to tougher crackdown on civil disobedience.
"[It was intended] as a basis for dialogue, nothing else," Lam told a news conference in Hong Kong on Thursday. "It is incorrect to make various speculative comments about why we are doing this now."
"We [announced we would] withdraw the amended bill in order to give Hong Kong a way out of the impasse," she said, adding that the ruling Chinese Communist Party has shown "understanding, respect, and support" over the anti-extradition movement.
But Lam ruled out acceding to two other demands made by the anti-extradition movement: an independent inquiry into police violence, which has fueled much of the public anger in recent waves of protest; and an amnesty for arrested protesters.
Protesters are also demanding that Lam revoke her initial description of the protests as "riots," and that the ruling Chinese Communist Party allow fully democratic elections for the chief executive and for LegCo, something that Beijing ruled out on Aug. 31, 2014, sparking the Umbrella movement for democratic reform.
Anger at police violence
Civic Party lawmaker Alvin Yeung said many people in Hong Kong are more incensed by the extent of police violence against ordinary citizens than by the original extradition proposals.
"Freedom from fear is the most basic requirement," Yueng said. "It is unrealistic for the Lam administration to expect to solve the problem all in one go, while the people of Hong Kong are still under the threat of police violence."
And Felix Chung, leader of the pro-Beijing Liberal Party, called for an independent inquiry into police violence, saying that there was now a cross-party political consensus for such an inquiry on the "left, right, and center."
Yeung said public trust in the Hong Kong Police Force is at an all-time low.
"Is there really no room for a concession? Until yesterday, the government wouldn't accede to any of the five demands, and then suddenly they announce the formal withdrawal of the bill yesterday," he said.
"I really want to ask the government and the pro-establishment faction if it would really be so hard to set up an independent inquiry."
Reported by Hwang Chun-mei and Gao Feng for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Tam Siu-yin for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.