More than 1,000 protesters gathered outside Hong Kong department of justice on Thursday as part of an ongoing civil disobedience campaign against government plans to allow extradition to mainland China.
Calling for the total withdrawal of now-suspended amendments to the city's Fugitive Offenders Ordinance, protesters also demanded that the government withdraw its description of protests outside the legislature on June 12 as a "riot," and initiate an independent inquiry into widely publicized police violence on that day.
"The tyrannical ... government still refused to respond to our requests regarding the withdrawal of the Extradition Bill Amendment," the Chinese University of Hong Kong Student Union said in a statement calling for the protest, which it said was "to put further pressure on the tyrannical regime."
Former 2014 democracy protest leader Joshua Wong, who is now among the leaders of the political party Demosisto, was at the protest.
Pro-democracy lawmaker Fernando Chueng called on justice secretary Theresa Cheng to listen to the views of protesters, and accused the administration of chief executive Carrie Lam of "hiding" in its offices.
"If the secretary for justice had a normal relationship with the general public, and a large number of people showed up outside your offices with a number of demands, you would at least take the trouble to talk to them," Cheung said.
"There are still a couple of weeks to go before the Legislative Council (LegCo) goes into recess, and they keep canceling meetings of the Executive Council (ExCo)," he said. "All these officials are just hiding out in their holes now. They don't want to face the people."
"I think their attitude is appalling," Cheung said.
Put off by police
Chinese University student union representative Ying Lung Yi said some people had been put off from attending the demonstration by aggressive police searches on passersby.
"They were basically stopping and searching pretty much anyone who walked past," Ying said. "There must have been several hundred."
"People started walking back down the hill again when they saw [this]," she said.
Some staff at the department stayed away after protesters started to gather, and worked according to a "contingency plan," a justice department spokesperson said.
Ousted pro-democracy lawmaker and fellow Demosisto leader Nathan Law said he expects that a planned mass demonstration marking the anniversary of Hong Kong's 1997 handover to Chinese rule on Monday will be crucial to the anti-extradition movement, which has now started to reprise calls made during the 2014 Occupy Central movement for fully democratic elections.
"I think the July 1 march will be a crucial point, because the international community usually pays a lot of attention to it," Law told RFA. "That's why we will pay close attention to everything that takes place at the July 1 march."
An open letter
The protests came as campaigners raised millions of Hong Kong dollars in crowdfunding to place advertisements in major overseas newspapers ahead of the G20 summit in Japan at the weekend.
"Stand With Hong Kong at G20," read one advertisement taken out in the Financial Times on Thursday, alongside a photograph of a crowd of protesters holding a banner that read "suspension does not equal withdrawal."
The advertisement took the form of an open letter calling on G20 leaders to act to support Hong Kong appeared in the U.K.'s Guardian newspaper, the Süddeutsche Zeitung in Germany, the Globe and Mail in Canada, The New York Times and Belgium's Politico, government broadcaster RTHK reported.
The group called on readers of the newspapers to "ally with us, demanding the preservation of Hong Kong’s freedom and autonomy under the Chinese government."
Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Journalists' Association (HKJA) hit out at the rough treatment of a TVB News cameraman during the protest outside the justice department.
"A cameraman from TVB News was surrounded, pushed, insulted, and driven away by a group of people outside the Justice Place today (27 June)," the group said in a statement on its website. "His face and eyes were even being shot by flashlights at a short range."
It said several similar incidents had occurred at protests in recent days, while some journalists reported that they had been prevented from filming.
"The Hong Kong Journalists Association condemns such kinds of actions, which seriously infringe on press freedom," it said.
"If front-line journalists are being disturbed and their reporting work obstructed, freedom of the press will be undermined, and the public’s right to know will also be weakened."
"[People] should not vent out their anger onto journalists even if they are dissatisfied with the reporting of their media organizations. They could send their opinions and views to the relevant news organizations," it said.
Hong Kong's secretary for security John Lee said the government had suspended the proposed amendments to the city's extradition laws, and would accept their natural expiration at the end of the current LegCo term next year. He once more refused to answer calls for a public inquiry into police violence on June 12, saying that the current, police-investigated complaints system was equal to the task.
Police Commissioner Stephen Lo meanwhile strongly condemned protesters who surrounded police headquarters late on Wednesday, covering the walls in obscene graffiti and blocking one of the exits with traffic barriers.
"Our daily work isn't just dealing with protests; it involves serving the people, come rain or shine, including cases of murder and child abuse, as well as daily traffic accidents," Lo said. "We hope everyone will stop embroiling us in political disputes and treating us as targets for attack."
But Democratic Party lawmaker Ted Hui said Lo had failed to see what was behind protesters' anger, however.
"Stephen Lo says people are taking out their anger on police, but has he ever thought about why they are so angry?" Hui said. "It's not good to continually create conflicts between the police and the people, but you can't blame them."
"The government itself is putting the police at the center of things, while refusing to solve the political crisis," he said. "It's not their fault, but the senior police leadership should show a bit of wisdom and quit blaming these young people."
Threat to status
The amendments are widely seen as a 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 members of the business community could be targeted for words and actions deemed illegal by the ruling Chinese Communist Party, and extradited to face trial in Chinese courts.
Pro-democracy lawmakers say the only solution to recurring mass protests in Hong Kong is for the government to allow fully democratic elections, a demand that was rejected by the Chinese Communist Party in 2014, sparking the Occupy Central, or Umbrella Movement.
Hong Kong's lawyers have also come out in support of protesters, saying that the extradition bill should be withdrawn completely, as opposed to the postponement offered by Carrie Lam.
Reported by Tseng Lap-yin for RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.