Political Crisis
in Hong Kong

Public anger continues to grow in the city against proposed amendments that would allow the rendition of criminal suspects to mainland China. Here’s RFA’s continuing coverage of the political crisis in Hong Kong.


August 18, 2019


Nearly Two Million Take to Hong Kong's Streets in Peaceful Anti-Extradition Protest

More than a million people took to the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday in another mass protest against plans to allow extradition to mainland China, organizers said.

Wielding umbrellas against the heavy rain, protesters packed out the city's Victoria Park and spilled out to fill several major highways in the surrounding area, with many marching as far as government headquarters in spite of a police ban, raising the now-familiar chant of "Go Hongkongers!"


Protesters stand on Harcourt Road overlooking the Legislative Council during a rally in Hong Kong, in the latest opposition to a planned extradition law that has since morphed into a wider call for democratic rights in the semi-autonomous city, August 18, 2019. (AFP Photo)

Protesters stand on Harcourt Road overlooking the Legislative Council during a rally in Hong Kong, in the latest opposition to a planned extradition law that has since morphed into a wider call for democratic rights in the semi-autonomous city, August 18, 2019. (AFP Photo)


Mass Transit Railway (MTR) stations were also packed with crowds, according to live video streams, as tens of thousands more people tried to join the rally.

Rally organizers the Civil Human Rights Front said an estimated 1.7 million people turned out. The group also hit out a police decision to ban a full march from the park, saying that many more people were prevented from attending owing to the "unreasonable restrictions" imposed by police.

Group convenor Jimmy Sham said the march was about sending a strong message to the administration of chief executive Carrie Lam that the majority of people in Hong Kong favored peaceful and rational protest as a way to make their views known.

"Today, we wanted to tell Carrie Lam that Hong Kong people can do peaceful, rational and non-violent protest as well as put up a brave resistance," Sham said. "Today was all about the peaceful part, and asking for a response from Lam to our five demands."

The anti-extradition protests that have gripped the city since early June are making five key demands of Lam's administration: the formal withdrawal of planned amendments to laws that would allow extradition of alleged criminal suspects to face trial in Chinese courts; an amnesty for arrested protesters; an end to the description of protesters as rioters; an independent inquiry into police abuse of power; and fully democratic elections.

"Lam has continued to hide behind the police, and to use their violence as a way to suppress the demands of the people of Hong Kong," Sham said.

He said some protesters had only resorted to violence because Lam's administration has been ignoring peaceful demonstrations.

Civil disobedience

Cantopop star Denise Ho told the rally that the marchers had only set off from the park to ease the sheer pressure of the crowd.

"The police told us that we couldn't march, and that we'd have to do something else, and not leave Victoria Park," Ho said. "But there were just too many people today, so that's why everyone took to the streets."

"This kind of civil disobedience has persisted over several months in Hong Kong in spite of the authorities' attempt to extinguish it using everything they've got," she said. "They tried to make people too scared to come out, but it didn't work."

"Hong Kong people are still incredibly united, to the point where they come out even in this heavy downpour," Ho said.

A protester surnamed Cheung said the two most important demands for her were fully democratic elections to the city's Legislative Council (LegCo) and for the chief executive.

"I feel that our freedoms are being stripped away, and that the police ... won't even let us come out in protest over that," Cheung said.

"It's unreasonable to talk about supporting peaceful methods of protest if things have gotten to the point where we can't even go on a peaceful march."

A highschooler surnamed Lok said he hopes that the city's young people will boycott class come September, an idea that was shown to have widespread support in a recent poll of nearly 20,000 student.

"We want our school to respond positively to the five major demands ... as well as committing to provide support for all arrested students," Lok said.

Muted police presence

Police presence was muted for most of the day, with a noticeable absence of riot police, tear gas or rubber bullets, even when protesters spilled out onto Harcourt Road, a key site in the 2014 democracy movement after night fell.

Across the harbor in Kowloon's Mong Kok district, a group of protesters gathered outside the local police station, shouting angry slogans, flashing laser pointers and throwing eggs, but left shortly before a group of riot police showed up to clear some barricades on Nathan Road.

Former 2014 student leader Joshua Wong posted video to Twitter which showed a group of around 15 people clad in the black clothes that have marked out anti-extradition protesters in recent weeks, filing into a police station at the end of the protests at around midnight on Sunday.

"Lots of undercover officials that dress up & pretend as protesters with black t-shirt," Wong wrote via his Twitter account. "They were spotted by citizens when they went back to the Police Headquarter in the midnight."

The government said some "breaches of the peace" had occurred in spite of the majority of protesters behaving in a peaceful manner.

"A large number of protesters rushed to the roads and occupied the carriageways of Causeway Road and Hennessy Road after leaving the public meeting venue," it said in a statement after the rally.

Protesters also blocked roads in Western and Central districts, Admiralty, Wanchai, Causeway Bay and Tin Hau.

In response to public anger over police violence, the statement said that the police had exercised restraint, tolerance and patience.

"Only when there were violent acts or illegal behaviors which endangered the safety of people at scene, police would stop them by proportionate use of force," saying the public was being "unfair" to the police force.

Reported by Lau Siu-fung for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Wang Yun for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


August 13, 2019


Riot Police Intervene After Protesters Bring Hong Kong Airport to a Standstill

Riot police stormed the Hong Kong International Airport on Tuesday, clashing with protesters after several thousand people occupied the facility and caused the mass cancellation of flights for the second day in a row, amid growing public anger over police violence and government plans to allow extradition to mainland China.

Reuters news agency reported that scuffles broke out after an injured person was taken out of the main terminal by medics after he was held by a group of protesters, some of whom claimed he was an undercover mainland Chinese police officer.



Riot police who moved pushed some protesters back and applied pepper spray, while at least two protesters were taken away by police, the agency said.

A situation that looked poised to erupt into serious violence calmed down after a few hours without a more forceful police intervention, Reuters added.

While flights returned to normal briefly on Tuesday morning following Monday's shutdown, the passenger terminal at Chek Lap Kok was shut down by the sheer size of the crowds by the afternoon, with protesters making temporary barricades out of luggage carts.

Chanting "Meet the five demands!" and "An eye for an eye!" after a protester underwent emergency surgery after being shot in the eye by a "non-lethal" police projectile believed to be a bean bag round.

"I was born and educated in Hong Kong, and I never once imagined that it could turn into this in the space of two months," one protester told RFA. "[A place where] police would fire tear gas in an enclosed space, fire bullets."

"As for our shameless government, I don't think we will necessarily be able to change anything, but it's better than cowering at home."

The crowd quickly brought normal operations to a standstill, with some passengers expressing annoyance at the disruption, and others saying they supported the anti-extradition movement in spite of the inconvenience.

More than 5,000 protesters fill Hong Kong's international airport, Aug. 12, 2019. (Reuters Photo)

More than 5,000 protesters fill Hong Kong's international airport, Aug. 12, 2019. (Reuters Photo)

The anti-extradition protests are calling on chief executive Carrie Lam to formally withdraw planned amendments to extradition laws that would allow alleged criminal suspects to be sent to face trial in mainland courts, to release all protesters without charge, and to stop describing the protests as riots or protesters as rioters.

They also want the government to set up an independent public inquiry into police use of tear gas, batons, rubber and textile bullets, and batons to attack crowds of largely peaceful demonstrators, and their failure to prevent bloody attacks by triad-linked thugs on protesting crowds in Yuen Long and North Point.

UN cites 'credible evidence'

The United Nations Human Rights Office on Tuesday hit out at the Hong Kong government over the police use of tear gas and other weapons in a non-approved manner.

"The ... Office has reviewed credible evidence of law enforcement officials employing less-lethal weapons in ways that are prohibited by international norms and standards," spokesman Rupert Colville said in a statement.

"For example, officials can be seen firing tear gas canisters into crowded, enclosed areas and directly at individual protesters on multiple occasions, creating a considerable risk of death or serious injury," he said in a written statement, calling for an independent investigation.

"The Office urges the Hong Kong ... authorities to act with restraint, to ensure that the right of those who are expressing their views peacefully are respected and protected, while ensuring that the response by law enforcement officials to any violence that may take place is proportionate and in conformity with international standards on the use of force, including the principles of necessity and proportionality," it said.

Protesters also want Lam to formally dissolve the Legislative Council (LegCo) and implement political reforms leading to fully democratic elections with public nominations both to the legislature and for the city's chief executive.

But Lam has refused all along to countenance such concessions, preferring to focus on the economic costs of the protest movement without addressing the political crisis that sparked it.

Call for unity, dialogue

Lam on Tuesday called for unity, an end to the escalating civil disobedience that has rocked the city for two months, and a peaceful dialogue to resolve the impasse.

"Nobody wants to see anyone get hurt," Lam said. "As for the woman whose eye was injured, I hope she makes a rapid recovery, and this will be investigated if she is willing to file a complaint and tell me what happened on the day."

Claudia Mo, who leads the pro-democracy camp of lawmakers, said Lam's words were like a stuck record, however.

"Lam still repeats herself like a broken tape-recorder, mistaking the effect for the cause and painting black as white," Mo told reporters.

"She says that the so-called violent protesters have brought chaos to Hong Kong, while making no attempt to resolve the current issue."

Protesters hold placards at Hong Kong's International Airport, Aug. 12, 2019. (AFP Photo)

Protesters hold placards at Hong Kong's International Airport, Aug. 12, 2019. (AFP Photo)

Meanwhile, pro-China groups ramped up the rhetoric against the anti-extradition movement, after Beijing's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office said the protesters' actions were approaching "terrorism."

Forty pro-China lawmakers issued a statement on Tuesday saying that what were once peaceful demonstrations against amendments to extradition laws had become "violent conflicts spreading through a number of districts," and supporting the police in their attempts to "restore social order."

Business groups and airlines echoed the claims, some of them publishing statements in Hong Kong newspapers on Tuesday.

Clampdown on reporters

Meanwhile, the ruling Chinese Communist Party has clamped down on any reporting coming out of Hong Kong, in a bid to control the narrative about Hong Kong from behind the Great Firewall.

"The only media doing much reporting out of Hong Kong are the China Daily, which has a mostly overseas readership, and the Global Times," a veteran journalist surnamed Tu told RFA.

"All of the Chinese media are taking the exact same line, without exception."

A website executive surnamed Jiang said the Hong Kong protests have sparked a whole new sub-class of "sensitive words," keywords that prompt the automatic deletion of social media content by censorship tools.

"There are some set piece articles that they ask all platforms to publish, and the comments have to be reviewed as well," Jiang said. "We have a deputy editor whose job it is to liaise with the Cyberspace Administration."

"There have been a very large number of deleted accounts on each platform too; several thousand of them," he said.

Repeated calls to the Cyberspace Administration rang unanswered during office hours on Tuesday.

Reported by Wong Siu-san, Sing Man, Wen Yuqing, Man Hoi-tsan and Lau Siu-fung for RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


August 11, 2019


Hong Kong Hit by Another Weekend of Clashes, Tear Gas, Public Anger

Hong Kong has been rocked by yet another weekend of tear gas, baton charges and angry protests amid a deepening confrontation between anti-extradition protesters and the city authorities.

Riot police fired multiple rounds of tear gas at "illegal" protests and made arrests in several districts of the city on Sunday, as pro-China thugs attacked anti-extradition protesters in North Point.



"HK Riot Police fired bullet and headshot a young lady," Joshua Wong, a former leader of the 2014 pro-democracy movement, said in a caption to a photo posted to his Twitter account on Sunday. "I am not sure whether her right eye will turn blind or not but it is totally insane and terrible."

Wong called on the U.S. to end all exports of tear gas and rubber bullets to Hong Kong.

A protester shields himself from tear gas during a confrontation with police in Tai Wai, Hong Kong, Aug. 10, 2019. (Reuters Photo)

A protester shields himself from tear gas during a confrontation with police in Tai Wai, Hong Kong, Aug. 10, 2019. (Reuters Photo)

The clashes came after a weekend of protests that defied police bans on marches and gatherings in Sham Shui Po, Tai Po and downtown shopping districts in Kowloon and Hong Kong Island.

Protesters continued their chant of "Reclaim Hong Kong! Revolution now!", while protesters and local residents alike hurled obscenities at the police for their apparent collusion with a string of triad-linked attacks in recent weeks.

In North Point, tensions were running high as protesters gathered in a district known for its triad-linked loyalty to the ruling Chinese Communist Party, after a man in a red shirt ran out of a restaurant and attacked a young man wearing black: the usual colour worn by supporters of the anti-extradition movement.

A Tai Po district resident surnamed Chan said she was very angry with the way the police had handled the protests so far.

"We are going to walk the streets. Wearing black clothes has become very popular lately," she said. "Black clothes show that you care more about justice."

"[These young people] are on the side of justice, and bringing Hong Kong society out of chaos," Chan said. "The police ... have been targeting the people of Hong Kong, and ignoring their safety.”

Protest standoffs

Local people engaged in angry shouting matches with protesters, with at least one assault on a member of the press reported on Sunday.

Police fired many rounds of tear gas from in side the Tsim Sha Tsui police station to clear protesters on both Saturday and Sunday evening, while protesters completely blocked Nathan Road, a busy shopping street running north from Tsim Sha Tsui towards the city's iconic Lion Rock.

"A large group of protesters are gathering on the Park Lane Shopper's Boulevard, Tsim Sha Tsui, blocking the section of Nathan Road between Austin Road and Salisbury Road," the police said in a statement on Sunday.

"This seriously affects emergency services for the public. Some protestors even hurled smoke bombs and hard objects, and aimed laser beams at police officers," it said, adding "Police officers have deployed tear gas and used minimum force to disperse protesters."

"Residents of the area are advised ... to, if necessary, keep their windows shut and stay indoors," it said.

An almost identical statement was issued regarding the use of tear gas in Hong Kong Island's Wanchai district that accused protesters of throwing "petrol bombs." However, local media only reported that small fires were burning on the tarmac in some protest locations, with no indication as to how they started.

Further north, protesters also gathered outside police stations in Sham Shui Po and Cheung Sha Wan districts, where police fired tear gas at a pedestrian footbridge where journalists were clustered and where local residents were passing by on their daily business, according to several social media posts from the scene.

"The area around the Sham Shui Po police station once again turned to a battleground on Sunday afternoon as scores of anti-riot police fire volleys of tear gas at brick-throwing anti-government demonstrators who had again besieged the station," government broadcaster RTHK reported.

Many protesters said they had come out in anger over the arrest of Hong Kong Baptist University student union president Keith Fong on Tuesday on suspicion of carrying an "offensive weapon."

Fong, who was carrying 10 recently purchased laser pointers, none of which was equipped with a power supply, was later released without charge.

On Saturday, protesters were also chased away with riot police using tear gas from their occupation of a traffic roundabout near Tai Wai, on the other side of Lion Rock, while protesters blocked a road outside the New Town Plaza shopping mall in neighboring Shatin.

Protesters also set up barricades using traffic barricades and umbrellas near the Kowloon-side exit of the Cross-Harbour Tunnel, leaving before riot police arrived on Saturday.

Protest goals

A protester surnamed Koh said the protesters' goals hadn't changed, even though they continued to show up in different districts across Hong Kong.

"We're not really focusing on where the protests are: our goals are very consistent, which is to say the five demands," Koh told RFA on Saturday.

Meanwhile, thousands of anti-extradition protesters gathered in the arrivals hall of the Hong Kong International Airport for the third day of a sit-in that began on Friday, greeting new arrivals to the city with a rendition of "Do You Hear The People Sing!" in English and recent video footage of police violence against them.

The anti-extradition protests have called in recent weeks on the administration of chief executive Carrie Lam to formally withdraw planned amendments to extradition laws that would allow alleged criminal suspects to be sent to face trial in mainland courts, to release all protesters without charge and to stop describing the protests as riots or protesters as violent.

They also want the government to set up an independent public inquiry into police use of tear gas, batons, rubber and textile bullets, and batons to attack crowds of largely peaceful demonstrators, and their failure to prevent bloody attacks by triad-linked thugs on protesting crowds in Yuen Long and North Point.

And they want Lam to formally dissolve the Legislative Council (LegCo) and implement political reforms leading to fully democratic elections with public nominations both to the legislature and for the city's chief executive.

But Lam has refused all along to countenance such concessions, preferring to focus on the economic costs of the protest movement without addressing the political crisis that sparked it.

In Washington, there is growing bipartisan support for the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which will require the U.S. government to stop according the city separate trading status if its promised freedoms and political autonomy continue to be eroded under Chinese rule.

The bill also seeks to "establish punitive measures against government officials in Hong Kong or mainland China who are responsible for suppressing basic freedoms in Hong Kong."

Reported by Lau Siu-fung for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


August 5, 2019


Hong Kong Gripped by Protests, Street Battles on Day of General Strike

Anti-government protesters occupied major roads in Hong Kong on Monday as the city was hit by a general strike and black-clad anti-extradition protesters besieged police stations across the city, setting fires outside one following peaceful demonstrations attended by thousands of people.

An estimated 10,000 workers went on strike across several key sectors in the city on Monday, as protesters occupied major highways, and police fired tear gas at them on Harcourt Road in Admiralty, Lung Cheung Road under Kowloon's Lion Rock, as well Nathan Road and Waterloo Road in downtown Kowloon.



Police also fired tear gas on protesters and local residents who set up barricades and occupied major roads in the new towns of Tai Po and Tin Shui Wai to the east and west of the New Territories, with local residents staying out on the streets hurling abuse at police until well into the middle of the night in some areas.

Meanwhile, a demonstration outside Shatin police station saw some protesters setting fire to pallets and other street debris right against the police station walls after 30,000 people turned out earlier in the day to protest police brutality in a shopping mall in the dormitory town.

Protesters react after police fire tear gas in Hong Kong's Tai Po district during a general strike, Aug. 5, 2019. (AFP Photo)

Protesters react after police fire tear gas in Hong Kong's Tai Po district during a general strike, Aug. 5, 2019. (AFP Photo)

Police responded to escalating protests in Kowloon's Sham Shui Po district by ordering nearby MTR stations to close, in a bid to prevent more protesters from flocking to the area.

All of the occupations and clashes were preceded by peaceful rallies earlier in the day, which began with widespread disruption of train services after protesters held up trains by throwing objects on the tracks.

The Mass Transit Railway (MTR) Corp. said there had been a "large number of cases of passengers activating Passenger Alarm Devices on trains or Platform Emergency Plungers on platforms, obstructing train doors and platform screen doors as well as obstructing trains."

Protesters press demands

Participants at the rallies chanted "Go Hongkongers!" and called on the administration of chief executive Carrie Lam to meet protesters' demands, which include the full withdrawal of amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance, which would enable the extradition of anyone Beijing deems a criminal suspect to face trial in mainland Chinese courts.

Protesters also want a full amnesty for dozens of people arrested, many of them on charges of "rioting," and an independent public inquiry into the government and police force's handling of the crisis.

Police have arrested 420 people aged from 14 to 76, fired 1,000 tear gas rounds, 160 rubber bullets, and 150 sponge rounds since protests began to escalate on June 6, according to a statement at a news conference on Monday.

Protesters are also demanding the government stop describing protests as "riots," and take steps to implement political reforms that would bring about fully democratic elections to the Legislative Council (LegCo) and for the chief executive.

Some 200 flights at Hong Kong's normally super-efficient international airport were canceled as air traffic controllers joined the general strike, and striking workers gathered at the airport itself to call on the government to take heed of public opinion.

Meanwhile, a group of men in white shirts and armed with sticks and rods attacked protesters in North Point, with protesters fighting back and forcing the attackers to withdraw, according to the Apple Daily live video feed and social media posts from the scene.

"As the night descended, Hong Kong was waking up to the fact that the city has drifted into uncharted waters with no one clear where this is all headed," government broadcaster RTHK said in a news report commenting on the day's events.

Riot police were deployed in force in the streets around the ruling Chinese Communist Party's Central Liaison Office in the city's Western district, while the area around LegCo and government headquarters was left relatively open.

Graphic: RFA

A crowd gathered outside LegCo on Monday for the first time since the storming of the chamber on July 1, but soon dispersed to occupy nearby Harcourt Road, also a key site of the 2014 Occupy Central pro-democracy movement.

'National dignity hurt'

Beijing's Hong Kong a Macau Affairs Office hit out on Monday at the actions of protesters who threw a Chinese national flag into Hong Kong's iconic Victoria Harbour on Saurday, saying they had "offended national dignity and hurt the feelings of the Chinese people."

A resident surnamed Chu who was making food donations to protesters at the front line said the government would now have to face the consequences of ignoring public opinion.

"If you ignore public opinion, there will be consequences," Chu said.

"Hong Kong protesters have done some stuff that was a bit over the top, but there are so many people out protesting in Hong Kong, and yet the government pays no attention to public opinion."

"We will keep going until the job's done and our demands are met, otherwise we won't stop," she said. "Why is the dictatorship [in China] trying to put all of the blame onto the people of Hong Kong, calling them violent, when they won't even reflect on their own violence?"

London-based rights group Amnesty International has said the police are largely to blame for protester violence, because they have a tendency to use tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, and batons to attack the crowd, and that police justification that the protests hadn't received prior approval wasn't in line with international human rights standards.

Public anger began to spiral after a gang of triad-linked men in white shirts attacked train passengers at Yuen Long MTR station on July 21.

Nobody was arrested at the time, and police took around 40 minutes to move in on the attackers, who left dozens of people hospitalized, one in a critical condition.

However, police have arrested dozens of protesters, many of them high-schoolers, college students, and young professionals, on suspicion of "rioting" following clashes between police and anti-extradition protesters in recent weeks.

Beijing urges action

Beijing has called on authorities in Hong Kong to take rapid steps to punish anyone who has broken the city's laws following weeks of angry protests over plans to allow extradition to mainland China.

Chinese officials have declined to comment on whether Beijing will order its People's Liberation Army (PLA) garrison to intervene in Hong Kong, referring only to the city's mini-constitution, the Basic Law, which allows for that possibility if the request is made by the Hong Kong government.

Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam told a news conference on Monday that the city is now heading down "a dangerous path," but declined to respond to any of the protesters' demands.

Graphic: RFA

"They are saying that they want to make revolution and reclaim Hong Kong, but these demands have now gone far beyond the original [five] demands," Lam told reporters.

"I understand that people are unhappy with the government, but I call on everyone to reflect about whether they want to undermine the stable lives of more than seven million people, and obstruct Hong Kong's future."

"This will take Hong Kong down the path of no return, in which good and bad are both destroyed," she said.

Threat to city's status

The amendments are widely seen as a threat to Hong Kong's way of life, which was supposed to have been protected by 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 Chinese officials.

They could then be extradited to face trial in Chinese courts, which are directly controlled by the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

Reported by Lau Siu-fung for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Gao Feng and Qiao Long for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


August 2, 2019


Hong Kong's Civil Servants Come Out in Support of Anti-Extradition Protests

Tens of thousands of people joined a rally of civil servants in downtown Hong Kong on Friday to call on the city's government to meet the five demands of anti-extradition protests that have gripped the city since June 6.

Chanting "Go Hongkongers!", the rallying cry of the anti-extradition movement, the civil servants met to send a clear message to the administration of chief executive Carrie Lam, who has become increasingly sequestered from public view in recent weeks.


Hong Kong civil servants call on the city's government to respond to protesters' demands, Aug. 2, 2019. (RFA Photo)

Hong Kong civil servants call on the city's government to respond to protesters' demands, Aug. 2, 2019. (RFA Photo)


Hong Kong's usually discreet and neutral civil servants are the latest group to come out strongly in favor of protesters, after lawyers, healthcare and medical professionals, financial sector workers, social workers and general trade unions.

The rally spilled over into several streets adjoining Chater Gardens in Hong Kong's Central district, with many present expressing support for a planned general strike on Monday.

The civil servants are calling on the government to meet the five main demands of protesters: to formally withdraw proposed amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance that would allow extradition to mainland China; to grant an amnesty for all arrested protesters; to withdraw official accusations of rioting; to set up an independent inquiry into police behavior during the crisis; and fully democratic elections.

Former second-in-command Anson Chan, who headed the civil service before the 1997 handover to China, called on the government to reflect on the unprecedented support for a political movement among Hong Kong civil servants.

"What the secretary for the civil service, and what the chief executive and the chief secretary should be asking themselves is why is it that, 22 years after the handover, civil servants, unprecedentedly, feel the need to stand up and make their voices heard," Chan told the rally.

Sounding an alarm bell

Teresa Chiu, who heads the production workers' union at government broadcaster RTHK, said civil servants also have a separate identity as citizens of Hong Kong, and have no wish to see worsening divisions in Hong Kong society.

She said the union would be expressing its views by participating in Monday's strike.

"I don't think that we are standing on the opposite side from the government," Chiu told RFA. "We just want to boost the confidence of those who hold the power to take positive action to rebuild mutual trust in the face of an ever-deepening rift between the government and the people."

"The strike is a way to sound an alarm bell, in the hope that the government will be courageous enough to take the first step towards standing with their citizens," she said.

Cheung Ka-bo, a worker in the government transportation division, said he was motivated to attend by the growing use of police violence to crack down on protesters.

"As part of the system, we want to uphold and protect the core values and principles of the civil service, and serve the people of Hong Kong at such a crucial juncture," Cheung told RFA. " We want to take a pragmatic approach, and heal the rifts in Hong Kong society as quickly as possible."

"No matter how long this dark night lasts, dawn will come eventually," he said.

Another rally participant, who gave only her surnamed Chan, said she wasn't there for political reasons.

"I'm here on a matter of conscience, not of politics," Chan said. "We're not even saying that we won't leave without withdrawal at this point, but why are the police being allowed to treat citizens in this way?"

Police, thug violence

London-based rights group Amnesty International has said the police are largely to blame for protester violence, because they have a tendency to use tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, and batons to attack the crowd first, and that police justification that some protests hadn't received prior approval wasn't in line with international human rights standards.

Public anger began to spiral after a gang of triad-linked men in white shirts attacked train passengers at Yuen Long MTR station following the defacing of China's national emblems by protesters on July 21.

Nobody was arrested at the time, and police took around 40 minutes to move in on the attackers, who left dozens of people hospitalized, one in a critical condition.

Lam's second-in-command Matthew Cheung, who heads the civil service, said civil servants are required to be politically neutral.

"As a civil servant, it is okay to act as a citizen on your own time, but it is not acceptable to do something different from the government in the name of the civil service," Cheung said. "This will lead to public misconceptions."

Eleven more arrested

The rally came after police arrested a further 11 peole in connection with recent protests, including Andy Chan, who headed the now-banned pro-independence Hong Kong National Party (HKNP).

Chan shouted from the police van as he was taken away: "Go Hongkongers! Don't fear the white terror!"

The arrests came as hundreds of protesters continued to besiege police stations across the city, calling for the release of dozens of people—many of them high-schoolers, college students, and young professionals—detained on "rioting" charges in recent days.

Some 250 people gathered in protest outside Shatin police station on Thursday night, according to police spokesman, spraying black paint on surveillance cameras and hurling obscenities at police.

"They wrote humiliating words on the walls of the police station," the spokesman said. "They were arrested on suspicion of illegal assembly."

Threat to city's status

The amendments are widely seen as a threat to Hong Kong's way of life, which was supposed to have been protected by 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 Chinese officials.

They could then be extradited to face trial in Chinese courts, which are directly controlled by the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

Students, march organizers, and pro-democracy lawmakers have all rejected government attempts at initiating discussions, saying that having their demands met would be a precondition for talks.

Carrie Lam has said the amendments are "dead," but protesters say her assertion brings with it no legal guarantee that they won't be resurrected at a later date.

Reported by Wen Yuqing and Wong Lok-to for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Gao Feng for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


July 28, 2019


Police Fill Hong Kong Streets With Tear Gas in Bid to Disperse Angry Crowd

Police fired large numbers of tear gas rounds and rubber bullets in Hong Kong's central business district on Sunday, in a bid to disperse anti-government protesters after thousands gathered to make their anger known over recent violent attacks by triads and police alike.

At least four people were taken to hospital during the clashes, where they were in satisfactory condition.



While previous protests have been marked by slogans and banners opposing plans to allow extradition to mainland China, this weekend's protests have seen protesters start to use more aggressive tactics, returning police strobe lights with pocket lasers and ripping up paving stones to hurl at riot police after tear gas and rubber bullets were fired.

The protesters are now calling their movement a revolution to "Reclaim Hong Kong," a Chinese expression that can also mean "Free Hong Kong," depending on context.

Protester throws tear gas canister back at police during a protest in Hong Kong, July 28, 2019. (AP Photo)

Protester throws tear gas canister back at police during a protest in Hong Kong, July 28, 2019. (AP Photo)

"I’m at the protest in Sai Wan," Joshua Wong, a former student leader of the 2014 Occupy Central movement for fully democratic elections, said via his Twitter account.

"Outside the Chinese Liaison Office just now, police suddenly fired more than 10 rounds of tear gas against us (who were not charging at all)," Wong wrote.

"There was smoke everywhere. I’ve never suffocated like this before and felt close to fainting. Chaotic."

Dozens injured

Wong also said he had witnessed multiple injuries at the hands of police, as well as arrests: "Police using excessive force once again against peaceful protesters who are only occupying streets," he wrote.

"Elsewhere rubber bullets are also fired. Dozens are injured. Many are beaten and arrested amid the mess."

Local journalist Xinqi Su posted a photo of a livid-looking injury sustained by one protester after riot police charged on protesters.

"A young man's left ankle is bleeding," Su tweeted. "Another protester showed me a foam bullet and said that was what injured the man. This is the second foam bullet I saw on Connaught [Road]."

Map of the event. RFA graphic

One large crowd made its way from Admiralty in an easterly direction, blocking the road outside the police headquarters in Wanchai and posting messages on the building. Others continued to the glitzy shopping district of Causeway Bay, where they occupied a street outside the Sogo department store.

Meanwhile, another crowd approached the Chinese government's Central Liaison Office in Hong Kong Island's Sheung Wan district, building barricades on the street and throwing debris. When police fired tear gas, protesters began throwing fragments of paving stones back, prompting police to dispatch the special squad.

The standoff then moved to barricades hastily constructed from metal traffic barriers, cable ties, and umbrellas on Connaught Road and Des Voeux Road West.

The special riot quad quickly dispersed the crowd on Des Voeux Road, subduing many on the ground, while police continued to fire tear gas rounds until the air all around was thick with it, and people in restaurants and shops were unable to escape.

'Dodgy cops'

Earlier, police had authorized a gathering in Central district's Chater Garden, to which some 11,000 people turned up, chanting "Shame on the dodgy cops!" in a reference to the growing belief among protesters that the Hong Kong Police Force are acting as frontline political enforcers for the ruling Chinese Communist Party via chief executive Carrie Lam, and are colluding with triad criminal gangs.

Police said the lines of riot police were closing in on protesters late on Sunday.

"Police’s dispersal operation is still ongoing and a large number of protestors are still gathering in Sheung Wan area," the force said in a statement.

"Police officers have proceeded with another round of dispersal operation and are moving their cordon lines from Shun Tak Centre on the west side and Harbour Building on the east side. Also, Police have set cordon lines on the roads on the south side."

Public criticism of police is growing after they used tear gas in a heavily built-up residential area for the second day running, leaving families with children choking in nearby restaurants, government broadcaster RTHK reported.

But police hit back, saying that some protesters had set fire to a cart full of objects and shoved it at police lines.

"Some protestors committed arson at various locations ... seriously threatening the safety of everyone at scene," the force said. "Police condemn the protestors’ escalating violence and appeal to everyone at scene to stay calm."

The statement said Sunday's gathering was "unauthorized," although a peaceful demonstration did take place in an authorized location earlier in the day.

Earlier clashes

The renewed clashes came after 13 people aged between 18 and 68 were arrested in earlier clashes in the New Territories town of Yuen Long on Saturday, which came after thousands gathered to protest police inaction over a triad-related attack on train passengers a week earlier.

The arrestees are being held on suspicion of illegal assembly, possession of offensive weapons, assaulting police, and assault.

A total of 24 people were reported injured as of Sunday morning by the Hospital Authority, with two of them in a serious condition and six in a stable condition. The remaining 16 people were discharged after treatment. Four police officers were among the injured.

Meanwhile, police have arrested Max Chung, the man whose application to hold a rally in Yuen Long was turned down on the grounds that it could pose a threat to public safety.

Chung was arrested on suspicion of "incitement to illegal assembly" after speaking on a radio show on Sunday.

Reported by Lau Siu-fung for RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


July 26, 2019


Thousands Converge on Hong Kong Airport to Protest Violent Attacks on Protesters

Thousands of protesters including airline and travel industry staff gathered at Hong Kong's international airport on Friday in a spontaneous demonstration against plans to allow the extradition of alleged criminal suspects to face trial in mainland Chinese courts.

They were also protesting the Hong Kong police force's handling of vicious attacks last weekend by men in white shirts, some of whom have been found to have links to the city's triad organizations, that left 45 people in hospital and one person in critical condition.



Some sat down displaying posters that read "Tourist Warning! The Hong Kong government hires thugs to beat protesters" on the floor of the arrivals hall, while others greeted arriving passengers with chants of "Go Hong Kong!" and "Free Hong Kong!"

Others played video footage of the attacks on train passengers in Yuen Long for passersby to watch.

Protesters crowd Hong Kong International Airport on July 26, 2019. (AFP Photo)

Protesters crowd Hong Kong International Airport on July 26, 2019. (AFP Photo)

Victims and eyewitnesses have demanded to know why it took more than half an hour for officers to respond to distress calls after the attacks began in Yuen Long MTR station on Sunday night.

Hong Kong's second-in-command Matthew Cheung apologized on Friday for the police's handling of the attacks, but stopped short of ordering a public inquiry, one of the key demands of protesters since several weeks of mass demonstrations and sit-ins began on June 6.

"We are engaged now, if I put it rightly, in a reflective process on the whole issue," Cheung told journalists. "But our position has been explained clearly that we believe it's better to be pursued through the existing mechanism."

As well as an inquiry into police use of tear gas, rubber and textile bullets and batons on unarmed protesters on June 12, protesters are also demanding the formal withdrawal of amendments to the city's Fugitive Offenders Ordinance which would enable the rendition of suspects to face trial in mainland Chinese courts.

Angry about attacks

A member of the airport ground staff surnamed Hui said he is still very angry about last Sunday's attacks in Yuen Long, which was why he wanted to attend a protest.

"People from all walks of life and from different groups will come out, including us train drivers," Hui said. "This is a very good opportunity, because we can let people from all over the world know what is happening in Hong Kong."

"[They will see that] we in Hong Kong can hold very peaceful gatherings to say something as important as this," he said.

Staff at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital also staged a sit-in on the hospital tennis court on Friday, in protest at the police force's handling of the Yuen Long attacks, when dozens of unidentifed men in white shirts beat up train passengers with wooden and metal poles.

Police were at the scene for around one hour before moving in, and later claimed they were waiting for backup. And while 11 arrests have been made, none has yet been for a violent offense, though 45 people were injured, with one left in a critical condition.

A second group of more than 100 civil servants has issued another petition calling on the administration of Carrie Lam to set up an independent commission of inquiry.

The letter, the second of its kind this week, hit out at the government for failing to respond adequately to protesters' demand, and at police for their failure to prevent so many attacks at Yuen Long.

Determined to march

Max Chung, whose application for a protest march in Yuen Long on Saturday has been turned down out of fears for public safety, said he would march to the Yuen Long MTR Station anyway, in spite of fears that the march could be attacked again by pro-China thugs or possibly triad gangs.

An anti-extradition protester who gave only a nickname Nicole said a friend of hers was injured in the Yuen Long attack on Sunday.

"He hadn't gone down [to the platform] yet, but he was beaten up on the upper concourse," she said. "He also fought back against a few of them and then he fled."

Map of the event. RFA graphic

She said many people are concerned that the police were acting in collusion with the white-shirted attackers.

"A couple of days before July 21, we all received an online post saying that ... if people went to Yuen Long they would get beaten up," Nicole said.

She said two nearby police stations in Yuen Long and Tuen Mun were closed, and people were having trouble getting through to the 999 emergency number.

"This was all coordinated," she said. "Otherwise, how could you have such a coincidence?"

Indiscriminate assaults

Dozens of men in white shirts gathered near the Yoho Mall, part of the Yuen Long MTR subway station development, at around 6.00 p.m on Sunday, according to social media posts.

Some wore slogans that read "Protect Yuen Long" and "Guarding our homeland."

Members of the group began attacking and intimidating members of the public standing on an suburban rail platform, while another group entered the adjacent subway station at around 11.00 p.m.

Some social media reports said they were targeting anyone wearing black, in the belief that they had attended a mass anti-extradition rally earlier in the day, where protesters typically wear black T-shirts. However, other reports said they were attacking people indiscriminately.

Some passengers fought back with umbrellas and even a fire hose during the attacks, which lasted for nearly an hour before riot police moved in, according to eyewitness and local media reports.

Many in Hong Kong suspect pro-China lawmaker Junius Ho of involvement with the attack, after video footage of him shaking hands with men in white shirts was posted online. Ho has since said he was just chatting with passers-by.

China role suspected

Others believe the attacks may have had Beijing's tacit encouragement after Li Jiyi, an official from China’s Hong Kong liaison office, called on local residents to drive away any activists.

In a recording obtained by Reuters, Li can be heard telling a community banquet for hundreds of villagers in Hong Kong’s rural New Territories on July 11 to protect their towns and to chase anti-extradition protesters away.

“We won’t allow them to come to Yuen Long to cause trouble,” he said, to a burst of applause.

“Even though there are a group of protesters trained to throw bricks and iron bars, we still have a group of Yuen Long residents with the persistence and courage to maintain social peace and protect our home," Li is heard saying.

Bruce Lui, senior journalism lecturer at the University of Hong Kong, said people had put two and two together.

"No sooner had he said this than [the attacks happened], so everyone now thinks that mainland China played some kind of role," Lui said.

A Central Liaison Office official strongly denied any association with the attacks, in comments reported by the semi-official Hong Kong China News Agency on Thursday.

"The Liaison Office absolutely has to issue a strenuous denial to wipe away this association in people's minds," Lui said.

Demand to withdraw

Protesters are calling on Lam to formally withdraw amendments tabled to the Legislative Council (LegCo) that would allow the rendition of alleged suspects from Hong Kong to face criminal proceedings in mainland China.

They also want an amnesty for anyone arrested during mass protests against the amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance in recent weeks.

Critics say the move would undermine the legal "firewall" between two very different political and judicial systems, and the U.S. has warned that it will call into question Hong Kong's status as a separate trading port.

The amendments are widely seen as a threat to Hong Kong's way of life, which was supposed to have been protected by 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 Chinese officials.

They could then be extradited to face trial in Chinese courts, which are directly controlled by the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

Students, march organizers, and pro-democracy lawmakers have all rejected government attempts at initiating discussions, demanding an amnesty for all those arrested in connection with recent protests, an end to the official description of protesters as "rioting", and the formal withdrawal of the planned amendments before the end of the current LegCo term in 2020.

Lam has said the amendments are "dead" and will expire at the end of the current LegCo term in 2020, but campaigners say her assertion offers no legal guarantees.

Reported by Wong Lok-to and Lee Wang-yam for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Lu Xi and Lin Ping for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


July 21, 2019


Six Arrested as Hong Kong Police Slammed For Slow Response to Violent Pro-China Thugs

Police in Hong Kong arrested six men on Monday, some of whom had links to triads, after bloody attacks on shoppers and a pro-democracy lawmaker by unidentified men wielding makeshift weapons at a Hong Kong mall.

The vicious attacks were carried out by unidentified thugs in white T-shirts wielding wooden and metal poles, whom many fear were members of Hong Kong's criminal underworld of triads recruited by Beijing to intimidate anti-extradition and pro-democracy protesters.



They came just hours after anti-extradition protesters had defaced the emblem of the People's Republic of China outside Beijing's Central Liaison Office following an anti-extradition march of half a million people.

While the arrested men had all been wearing white T-shirts, they were arrested on suspicion of "illegal assembly" rather than assault charges following a string of indiscriminate beatings that left dozens seeking medical attention in Hong Kong hospitals, police commissioner Stephen Lo told journalists.

Screen grab taken from video showing a mob of men in white T-shirts attacking pro-democracy protesters at Yuen Long station in Hong Kong, July 21, 2019. (RFA Photo)

Screen grab taken from video showing a mob of men in white T-shirts attacking pro-democracy protesters at Yuen Long station in Hong Kong, July 21, 2019. (RFA Photo)

Photos were also posted on social media on Monday showing police wearing full riot gear strolling next to some men in white T-shirts, adding fuel to fears that the men had been hired to strike fear into political protesters and that police had colluded with the attacks.

The collusion theory was also underpinned by unanswered questions over why it took police who arrived in at Yuen Long's suburban line railway station more than an hour to intervene, during which time the attackers continued to attack passengers and passers-by.

Shops remained closed in the Yoho Mall attached to the railway station on Monday, with very few people around, giving the development the air of a frightened ghost town.

Chief executive Carrie Lam moved to dampen speculation that the attacks happened with tacit official approval on Monday, condemning the perpetrators of the violence in a statement to the media, in which she called the attacks "unacceptable,"

"Any explanation that lays responsibility for these attacks at the door of the Hong Kong government, or that blames me for them personally, has no basis in fact, because everyone has a duty to distance themselves from violence," Lam said.

"There is also no basis for saying that our colleagues in the police force were in league with these violent thugs," she said.

'Lack of faith in our police force'

Commissioner Lo also condemned the attackers' "lawless acts," and said the police wouldn't let the matter drop.

He also sought to dismiss fears that police hadn't acted sooner or arrested any of the white-shirted men for possession of an offensive weapon.

"Far from being triad members, we are opposed to anyone who breaks the law," Lo said. "All of these claims stem from a lack of faith in our police force, so I hope people will try to have more faith in the police."

Map of the event. RFA graphic

Meanwhile, several hundred people went to make complaints to the police watchdog over the failure of police to send backup sooner to aid the officers already at the scene.

A police officer who declined to be named said morale among the Hong Kong police is at a low ebb, and that the force is understaffed in suburbs like Yuen Long.

"The reason no police came to the scene was that most of the officers had been transferred to protect Central district [where half a million anti-extradition protesters marched on Sunday], and there were very few left in Yuen Long," the officer said.

"All they could do, without the numbers or the resources, was to report the situation to their commanding officers and wait until they had more officers and equipment before trying to restore order."

Civic Party lawmaker Alvin Yeung said the government and police were lying," however.

"Please stop lying, because we saw on the live feeds yesterday evening that the officer supposedly in command was somehow unable to see the weapons, so what exactly were those guys in white shirts carrying?" Yeung said.

"The police should quit fooling themselves and everyone else," he said. "Was Yuen Long somehow outside of Hong Kong's jurisdiction last night? Did it declare independence? Did Hong Kong law somehow no longer apply there?"

"Dozens of people got attacked on that train of death, and you are telling me that this was done by ordinary Hong Kong citizens? It was the triads who attacked the people of Hong Kong," Yeung said.

Failure to intervene on time

The attacks in the suburb of Yuen Long left dozens of people in hospital amid growing public outrage at the failure of the city's police force to intervene in a timely manner.

Dozens of men in white shirts gathered near the Yoho Mall, part of the Yuen Long MTR subway station development, at around 6.00 p.m, according to social media posts.

Some wore slogans that read "Protect Yuen Long" and "Guarding our homeland."

Members of the group began attacking and intimidating members of the public standing on an suburban rail platform, while another group entered the adjacent subway station at around 11.00 p.m.

Some social media reports said they were targeting anyone wearing black, in the belief that they had attended a mass anti-extradition rally earlier in the day, where protesters typically wear black T-shirts. However, other reports said they were attacking people indiscriminately.

Some passengers fought back with umbrellas, and even a fire extinguisher during the attacks, which lasted for over an hour before riot police moved in, according to eyewitness and local media reports.

"Angry thugs forced open shuttered entrance with rods in their hands," off-duty journalist Jeffie Lam, who lives nearby, wrote in a thread on her Twitter account.

"Residents ran towards the mall as fast as they could. Some failed, got caught and attacked, with blood all over their face ... And there were no police officers. None," Lam wrote.

Jeffie Lam said some of the attackers had been carrying Chinese national flags.

"The men attacked anyone in the station indiscriminately, many of whom returned from the #antiELAB [anti-extradition] protest or just came over to support," she wrote. "They attacked people fiercely."

At least 45 people were sent to hospital, with one in critical condition and five in serious condition. Pro-democracy lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting and at least one journalist were among those injured, according to social media posts.

Police took an hour to move

MTR staff, who were also attacked by the mob, called the police, but officers didn't move in for at least an hour, during which time the attacks continued.

The MTR corporation announced the closure of Yuen Long station after a large crowd gathered.

Hundreds of community members and anti-extradition protesters said they would continue to patrol the area around the mall in a bid to protect local residents from further attacks.

March organizers the Civil Human Rights Front issued a statement strongly condemning the attacks on the public in Yuen Long, hitting out at the police for indulging the white-shirted "mob."

Police superintendent Yau Nai-keung, assistant commander of Yuen Long District, said they had received a call for help shortly before 11.00 p.m. on Sunday, and a team of officers were dispatched to the station.

He said that the patrol team hadn't intervened because they felt "their safety could not be guaranteed."

He said the failure of police to arrest some suspected attackers was due to uncertainty over their identity.

“Even those dressed in white, that doesn’t mean they are involved in the conflict," Yau told an early morning news conference that was reported by government broadcaster RTHK. "We will handle each case fairly – no matter the political camp they belong to."

Earlier, the station quoted Police Pat Heung division commander Li Hon-man as responding mockingly to journalists' questions about the length of time it took police to respond, replying that he "didn't have a chance to look at his watch."

Earlier in the day, anti-extradition protesters vandalized Beijing's Central Liaison Office in Sheung Wan district at the tail end of a peaceful mass protest against plans to allow the extradition of alleged criminal suspects to face trial in mainland China.

'Confrontations and injuries'

The administration of chief executive Carrie Lam issued a statement condemning violence, but focused on "outrageous" damage to property at the Central Liaison Office, mentioning the unprovoked attacks on people only further down the statement.

"These outrageous acts included hurling petrol bombs, setting fires, throwing bricks and blocking thoroughfares," the statement said.

"In Yuen Long, some people congregated at the MTR station platforms and the train compartments where they attacked commuters. This led to confrontations and injuries," it said.

Hundreds of people gathered outside the Central Liaison Office, a towering symbol of ruling Chinese Communist Party power in the city, and the frequent target of protests, after the main anti-extradition protest numbering nearly half a million had dispersed, according to online video footage.

Some protesters threw eggs at the building, while others painted over the emblem of the People's Republic of China in black and daubed graffiti over the official plaque on the office's gates.

The crowd chanted "Oppose rendition to China! Oppose the evil law! Investigate police violence!"

One protester at the scene told RFA: "We are a bunch of Hong Kong protesters who have been turning out in our millions since the beginning of June in a number of peaceful, non-violent and rational protests, including marches, to tell the government and the rest of the world to accede to our demands and opposition to renditions to China."

"There are also five upstanding people who haven't hesitated to lay down their lives for the cause, but sadly it seems that all that sweat and blood has flowed in vain," the protester said, in an apparent reference to recent suicides of anti-extradition protesters.

Office director Wang Zhimin said the "rioters" had hurt the feelings of the Chinese people and the dignity of China's national emblems, which were replaced overnight.

"The radicals devastated facilities, defaced the national emblem, painted words insulting the country and nation, which had (gone) far beyond a peaceful demonstration," the office said in a statement cited by state news agency Xinhua.

"Those behaviors have ... seriously challenged ... the authority of the central government," the statement said.

Protesters are calling on Lam to formally withdraw amendments tabled to the Legislative Council that would allow the rendition of alleged criminal suspects from Hong Kong to face criminal proceedings in mainland China.

Critics say the move would undermine the legal "firewall" between two very different political and judicial systems and likely call into question Hong Kong's status as a separate trading port.

They also want an amnesty for anyone arrested during mass protests against the amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance in recent weeks.

The amendments are widely seen as a threat to Hong Kong's way of life, which was supposed to have been protected by 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 Chinese officials.

They could then be extradited to face trial in Chinese courts, which are directly controlled by the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

Students, march organizers, and pro-democracy lawmakers have all rejected government attempts at initiating discussions, demanding an amnesty for all those arrested in connection with recent protests, an end to the official description of protesters as "rioting", and the formal withdrawal of the planned amendments before the end of the current LegCo term in 2020.

Lam has said the amendments are "dead" and will expire at the end of the current term of the Legislative Council in 2020, but campaigners say her assertion offers no legal guarantees.

Reported by Tam Siu-yin and Lau Siu-fung for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Lu Xi for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


July 14, 2019


Dozens Injured After Police Storm Hong Kong Shopping Mall, Pursue Protesters

Dozens of people were sent to hospital and dozens more were arrested during clashes on Sunday between police and anti-extradition protesters at a shopping mall in surburban Hong Kong, with seven people still receiving treatment for their injuries.

Around 28 protesters and more than 10 police officers were injured after police in full riot gear stormed New Town Plaza in the New Territories town of Shatin, where they "kettled" protesters and prevented them from leaving on foot or by train, according to live video feeds and social media posts from the scene.



Seven protesters and six police officers were still receiving medical treatment on Monday, after police arrested more than 40 people on suspicion of public order charges that included "illegal assembly," as well as alleged assaults on police officers.

Meanwhile, several hundred people marched alongside more than a dozen hunger strikers—two of whom have gone 12 days without food to protest plans to allow extradition to mainland China—on a march to chief executive Carrie Lam's residence in downtown Hong Kong.

The hunger strikers are calling on Lam to formally withdraw amendments tabled to the Legislative Council that would allow the rendition of alleged criminal suspects from Hong Kong to face criminal proceedings in mainland China.

Riot police pursue, attack Hong Kong protesters in a shopping mall, July 14, 2019. (Reuters Photo)

Riot police pursue, attack Hong Kong protesters in a shopping mall, July 14, 2019. (Reuters Photo)

Critics say the move would undermine the legal "firewall" between two very different political and judicial systems and likely call into question Hong Kong's status as a separate trading port.

They also want an amnesty for anyone arrested during mass protests against the amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance in recent weeks.

Taking to the streets

Huge numbers of anti-extradition protesters, including families with young children and babies, took to the streets of Shatin on Sunday in the latest in a string of protests calling for withdrawal of the amendments, an amnesty for arrestees, an end to the description of protesters as "rioters."

They have also called for an independent public inquiry into the authorities' handling of the political crisis that has gripped Hong Kong since June 9.

By the evening, after the main march had ended, a huge crowd had gathered at the intersection of Yuen Wo Road and the Shatin Rural Committee Road, with police "kettling" protesters by surrounding them on all sides, forcing them into a nearby street.

Pro-democracy lawmakers at the scene tried to negotiate with police, who used similar tactics on protesters in the working-class district of Mong Kok last week, asking them to allow the crowd enough room to leave.

But police in full riot gear pursued a section of the crowd into nearby New Town Plaza, a privately owned and glitzy shopping mall, after they sought refuge there.

Police used pepper spray, and some protesters fought back, with some throwing umbrellas and other debris from higher floors on the heads of officers, who went to hunt them down, giving rise to chaotic images of scuffles and beatings with batons that left traces of blood on the marble flooring.

Police goals unclear

Civil Rights Observer group member Shum Wai-nam said it was unclear what the police had hoped to achieve from their kettling of protesters and storming of New Town Plaza.

"The thing that left everyone baffled was whether the police’s action yesterday was [intended as] a dispersal action or a round-up," Shum told RFA. "On the one hand they wanted the protesters to leave, but in actual fact a large number had already left the area they were clearing."

"Then, when the protesters had gone into New Town Plaza, was there any need to chase and arrest them in there?" he said. "That round-up escalated the situation and worsened the clashes."

Police commissioner Stephen Lo said police had chased the protesters into the mall because they were in pursuit of people who had broken the law.

As protesters marched in Shatin, around 1,000 journalists and their supporters marched silently to police headquarters under the slogan “Stop Police Violence, Defend Press Freedom,” in protest at what they said were abuses of police power targeting members of the press covering the recent protests.

"During the recent series of protests, journalists were unjustifiably dispersed, pushed away, verbally insulted, or even beaten by batons, [and] shot by bean bag rounds by police officers [on] a number of occasions," Chris Yeung, president of march organizers the Hong Kong Journalists' Association (HKJA) told the rally.

Attacks on police

Lam, meanwhile, defended her administration's use of the word "rioters" to describe anti-extradition protesters.

"Some people surrounded police officers and mounted seriously violent and crazed attacks on them, including the use of wooden sticks and various other weapons," she told a news conference on Monday.

"There was one incident that everyone can see from the TV footage in which a police officer was kicked down from an escalator and fell into the main lobby, to be chased by 10 or 20 rioters who mounted a crazed attack on him."

"We saw that the violent attacks on police officers were very well organized, with slogans, hand signals, supply lines. This was planned. They deliberately blocked roads and disrupted public order," she said.

However, organized actions including slogans, hand signals and supply lines have been a feature of peaceful anti-extradition protests for several weeks.

"Time and again, the police were attacked by rioters, and I think we really can describe them as rioters," Lam told a news conference in Hong Kong on Monday.

"There was an initial, peaceful demonstration, and when that was over, some people started to riot deliberately," she said. "We strongly condemn anyone who uses violence to protest, and who hurts our police force."

'A pack of wolves'

But Civic Party lawmaker Alvin Yeung said that police had chased protesters into the mall "like a pack of wolves," beating them indiscriminately and firing pepper spray at them, government broadcaster RTHK reported.

Chung Kim-wah, assistant professor of social policy at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, said blame for the clashes should be laid firmly at the feet of Lam's administration for refusing to accede to protesters' demands.

"They refuse to discuss total withdrawal [of the bill] ... which leaves people thinking they are just unwilling to admit their own mistake," Chung said.

"A lot of people are talking about an independent public inquiry now, which wouldn't focus on the police, but on every aspect [of the crisis]. But the government is refusing, because it thinks the anti-government protests will run out of steam," he said.

Chung said the government's intransigence has affected public support for Lam's administration.

"I think that the majority of Hong Kong people are now extremely unhappy with the political establishment, the chief executive and the police right now: the sense of opposition is very strong," he said.

"If they were to announce the bill was formally withdrawn and set up an independent inquiry led by lawmakers, I think that would ease public anger, even if it didn't entirely meet the five demands of the protesters," Chung said.

"Maybe the protests would die down a bit then, with not so many people coming out, and that would make dialogue easier."

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 by 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 Chinese officials.

They could also be extradited to face trial in Chinese courts, which are directly controlled by the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

Students, march organizers, and pro-democracy lawmakers have all rejected Lam's attempt at initiating discussions, demanding instead that she first declare an amnesty for all those arrested in connection with recent protests, drop allegations of "rioting" used by police and some officials, and formally withdraw the planned amendments before the end of the current LegCo term in 2020, rather than just claiming that they will automatically lapse at that time.

Protesters also want an independent public inquiry into police use of tear gas, rubber and textile bullets, pepper spray, and batons during the anti-extradition campaign, especially during protests on June 12.

Lam has said the amendments are "dead" and will expire at the end of the current term of the Legislative Council in 2020, but campaigners say her assertion offers no legal guarantees.

Reported by RFA's Cantonese Service by Lau Siu-fung and Lee Wang-yam for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Lu Xi for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


July 9, 2019


Hong Kong's Lam Says Extradition Bill is 'Dead,' Campaigners Skeptical

Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam appeared to extend an olive branch to the city's mass anti-extradition movement on Tuesday, promising that widely hated amendments to existing extradition laws were "dead."

"The bill is dead," Lam told a news conference, temporarily breaking into English from Cantonese to make her point. However, her phrase in Cantonese was closer to "dying peacefully in old age."

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam addresses the media during a press conference in Hong Kong, July 9, 2019. (AP Photo)

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam addresses the media during a press conference in Hong Kong, July 9, 2019. (AP Photo)

"There are still lingering doubts about the government's sincerity, or worries whether the government will restart the process in the Legislative Council (LegCo)," she said in an English statement immediately afterwards. "I reiterate here there is no such plan—the bill is dead."

Students have rejected the government's overtures out of hand, demanding that she first declare an amnesty for all those arrested in connection with recent protests, drop allegations of "rioting" used by police and some officials to describe the events of June 12, and formally withdraw the planned amendments before the end of the current LegCo term in 2020.

Lam on Tuesday stopped short of meeting those demands head-on, instead claiming that the government has never used "rioting" as an official description of the protests, and nodding to the fact that the vast majority of protesters marched in a peaceful and orderly way, consistent with Hong Kong's "core values."

Protesters also want an independent public inquiry into police use of tear gas, rubber and textile bullets, pepper spray and batons during the anti-extradition campaign, especially during protests on June 12.

Jordan Pang, student representative from the University of Hong Kong said the government must accede to all of the protesters' demands before students will consider entering a dialogue.

"Legally, it is meaningless to say that the bill is dead," Pang told RFA. "Technically, there is no difference between her saying that, and saying that the bill has been suspended."

"This isn't the withdrawal we're looking for," he said. "This movement isn't only about students; it's not even led by students."

"She should be answerable to the people of Hong Kong as to the use of outdated laws regarding illegal gatherings in the Public Order Ordinance, and the use of rioting charges to prosecute members of the public," he said. "This is absolutely unreasonable."

Amnesty 'not acceptable'

Lam said calls for an amnesty for those arrested were "not acceptable," because the decision whether or not prosecute should be taken independently of political considerations, and said that, instead of an independent inquiry, a "fact-finding study" would be carried out by the city's police complaints body, which analysts say has no investigatory powers and has to rely on the police investigating themselves.

She also insisted that a minority had engaged in "violent acts," in an apparent reference to protesters smashing their way into LegCo and spray-painting surveillance cameras and anti-extradition graffiti on government property, as opposed to attacks on people.

"We are sad to see these violent acts because they undermine the rule of law in Hong Kong," she said, calling for a community dialogue via an "open, constructive, interactive platform" that would include people from different backgrounds, especially young people.

"Whenever I and my officials are needed to take part in the dialogue, we are very happy to do so," she said, adding that the government "should build more open platforms to facilitate dialogues in a very frank manner."

Lam drew parallels between the 2014 Occupy Central democracy movement and a string of mass protests in recent weeks that have seen millions turn out to call on her to formally withdraw the extradition bill, as well as the temporary occupation of government buildings and LegCo, prompting shutdowns in each case.

The protests have also seen renewed calls for full universal suffrage with no restrictions on who can stand as a candidate.

"Five years ago, we finished Occupy Central, we moved on without addressing those fundamental problems," Lam said in a reference to campaigners' demands for fully democratic elections, which was ruled out by China's National People's Congress standing committee in August 2014.

"I don't think we could continue to ignore those fundamental and deep-seated problems in Hong Kong society," Lam said, repeating more publicly the government's recent attempts to set up dialogue with student unions and other groups.

Jimmy Sham, convenor of the Civil Human Rights Front, which has organized some of the anti-extradition marches, said Lam's approach hasn't actually changed.

"Carrie Lam's basic position hasn't changed," Sham said. "She still seems to think that suspension is the same as withdrawal."

"But actually this is really a failure to respect the legislative processes of the Legislative Council: it's not legal terminology at all," he said. "I'm pretty sure you won't find any reference to 'dying peacefully in old age' on the statute books of Hong Kong."

Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai said Lam's words are unlikely to put an end to the protest movement.

"There is no way that this political movement will be pacified by [her comments] right now," Wu said. "Public trust in the Hong Kong government is going to fall away to nothing, and we will continue to see acts of civil resistance from different communities."

"This administration has also lost any effective basis for governance, which will lead to its destabilization," he said.

Chinese University of Hong Kong Students Union president So Tsun-fung agreed that nothing appeared to have changed as a result of Lam's press conference.

"We don't know if Carrie Lam's proposals today really mean ... a dialogue that involves all citizens who can take part in public forums," So said.

"More importantly, we don't represent all of the [anti-extradition] protesters ... and she didn't promise not to prosecute any protesters, so basically it's not going to happen anyway."

 Hong Kong media boss and democracy campaigner Jimmy Lai meets U.S. Senator Ted Cruz in Washington, July 9, 2019. Credit Mark Simon

Hong Kong media boss and democracy campaigner Jimmy Lai meets U.S. Senator Ted Cruz in Washington, July 9, 2019. Credit Mark Simon

Meeting on autonomy

Hong Kong media boss and democracy campaigner Jimmy Lai met U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday to discuss concerns about the former British colony’s autonomy after an estimated half a million people took to the streets to protest the extradition bill on Sunday.

China's foreign ministry on Tuesday slammed the meeting, saying that Beijing “resolutely opposes intervention by foreign forces in Hong Kong affairs."

“[The United States] has repeatedly interfered in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs," a spokesman said, adding that Beijing has lodged a diplomatic protest over the meeting.

"[We have] demanded that the U.S. immediately stop the wrong words and deeds. Don’t keep going farther and farther on this wrong path," a spokesman for Beijing’s foreign ministry commissioner in Hong Kong said.

The amendments are widely seen as a threat to Hong Kong's way of life, which was supposed to have been protected by 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 Chinese officials, and extradited to face trial in Chinese courts, which are directly controlled by the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

Reported by Lau Siu-fung for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Qiao Long and Gao Feng for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

July 1, 2019


Protesters Dispersed With Tear Gas After Storming Hong Kong Legislature

Hong Kong police fired tear gas late on Monday to disperse a large crowd of anti-extradition protesters who stormed the city's legislature, daubing the interior with protest banners and graffiti and hanging the flag of pre-1997 Hong Kong at the speaker's dais.

Large crowds began running from area around the Legislative Council (LegCo) as police in full riot gear began an operation using tear gas to clear protesters from the building, the area outside, and nearby Harcourt Road, livestreamed video footage showed.



Police hoisted warning signs to the crowd to disperse, before firing multiple rounds of tear gas, reaching the smashed glass doors and buckled security shutters of the legislature, where the crowd of anti-extradition protesters had surged through earlier in the night, shortly after midnight, government broadcaster RTHK reported.

Police fire tear gas at protesters near the government headquarters in Hong Kong, on the 22nd anniversary of the city's handover from Britain to China, July 2, 2019. (AP Photo)

Police fire tear gas at protesters near the government headquarters in Hong Kong, on the 22nd anniversary of the city's handover from Britain to China, July 2, 2019. (AP Photo)

"The LegCo building was violently attacked and [forcibly entered] illegally," the force said. "The police will conduct clearance operations shortly, and will use reasonable force ... and [we] appeal to [other] protesters to leave the vicinity."

As night fell, hundreds of anti-extradition protesters in Hong Kong stormed the building after huge crowds once more took to the streets to protest against plans to allow extradition to China, smashing through the reinforced glass with metal objects ripped from the nearby streets over several hours.

Clad in yellow construction helmets and using swimming floats strapped to their arms as shields, the protesters surged into the building after a long face-off with police in full riot gear, who appeared at first to offer no resistance.

Earlier, amid shouts of "Withdraw! Withdraw!", huge numbers of people joined a peaceful march that saw about half a million people come out against planned amendments to the Fugutive Offenders Ordinance that would allow alleged criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China to face trial.

Many marchers revived calls for fully democratic elections in the city. The ruling Chinese Communist Party ruled out such a move in 2014, sparking the 79-day Occupy Central movement.

Some chanted: "Genuine Universal Suffrage! Withdraw the Evil Law!" while others held up placards calling on chief executive Carrie Lam to to resign following weeks of mass protests at her plans to allow the rendition of alleged criminal suspects to mainland China.

Lam last month announced the plans would be shelved indefinitely, but stopped short of withdrawing them entirely, prompting fears that Beijing will insist the government try again when protests have died down.

 Protesters gather below a smashed window at the government headquarters in Hong Kong, July 1, 2019, the 22nd anniversary of the city's handover from Britain to China. (AP Photo)

Protesters gather below a smashed window at the government headquarters in Hong Kong, July 1, 2019, the 22nd anniversary of the city's handover from Britain to China. (AP Photo)

Public anger inttensifying

Marchers, who included people of all age groups including families with children, took up six lanes along the main route, in a turnout that appeared similar to video footage of the million-strong anti-extradition march of June 9.

Jimmy Sham, convenor of march organizers the Civil Human Rights Front, said the protesters' demands remain the same: to fully withdraw the amendments instead of merely postponing them; to order a public inquiry into police violence against unarmed protesters on June 12; to drop official wording describing that day's protests as a riot, as well as dropping all charges against previously arrested protesters.

"Yes, we saw a lot of clashes and conflicts today," Sham said, prior to the storming of the legislature. "What we are witnessing is public anger that is getting more and more intense."

A marcher surnamed Wong said she witnessed the protesters smashing the glass doors of LegCo.

"About half of the glass doors were smashed; there were so many people here," Wong said. "The numbers were about the same as on the million-strong march [of June 9]."

And a marcher surnamed Woo said that the majority on the peaceful demonstration wouldn't have agreed with the storming of LegCo.

"I think that this was just a small minority of Hong Kong people who would want to do such a thing," Woo said. "We should pursue those responsible ... but that the same time, what are we going to do to protect demonstrators from police violence?"

"The June 12 protesters were hit with so many tear gas canisters ... I think both sides should stop now," he said. "We need an independent inquiry with senior judges that will give the opportunity to rebuild mutual trust."

Protesters outside LegCo called on marchers to join the siege of the building as the march--which began at Victoria Park at 2.00 p.m. local time--continued to file into the area, lit by smartphone flashlights, long after nightfall.

Others occupied Harcourt Road, a major highway running past the government and legislative compound, closing it to traffic.

Deliberate ploy by the authorities?

Live video streams from the scene showed police in full riot gear waiting inside the LegCo building, as protesters clad in yellow construction helmets and wielding umbrellas gathered outside to cheer on protesters who took turns to smash holes in the building using metal traffic barriers and aluminium cladding removed from the building over several hours.

Police inside the building raised a red warning flag, which sometimes precedes the firing of tear gas and rubber bullets, but no tear gas was fired and protesters met with no resistance when they finally entered the building.

Labour Party lawmaker Fernando Cheung said the move had been a deliberate ploy by the authorities to ensure that shocking images of a wrecked LegCo reached the world's media.

"This is a trap," Cheung, who was present at the time, told government broadcaster RTHK. "The protesters this morning who were storming LegCo could have been dispersed easily by the police. They were not a large number, we're talking about probably a few hundred people. And those who were actually taking action were even smaller in number. And yet the police did not do anything."

"They wanted this to happen. They wanted the public to see this," Cheung said.

Earlier in the day, protesters had also removed the flag of the People's Republic of China from a ceremonial flagpole outside the city's exhibition center, replacing it with a blackened flag of Hong Kong flown at half-mast, as the city marked the 22nd anniversary of its return to Chinese rule, a day that was deliberately chosen to coincide with the anniversary of the ruling Chinese Communist Party's founding in 1921.

Police had also been filmed beating some protesters with batons as they pushed towards the Convention and Exhibition Center, with social media posts showing photos of protesters with bleeding from head wounds, and amid reports of multiple calls for ambulances.

Rescue services said two police officers received hospital treatment after a chemical substance was reported at the entrance to LegCo at around 3.34 p.m., and that a hazardous materials team had identified the substance as P-phenylenediamine, which can cause itchy eyes, skin redness and swelling, and shortness of breath.

Inhalation of large amounts of the substance may also cause serious skin and respiratory tract burns, the statement said.

Chief executive Carrie Lam and Chinese dignitaries who usually attend a July 1 flag-raising ceremony marking the 1997 handover stayed away.

A protester defaces the Hong Kong emblem after protesters broke into the government headquarters in Hong Kong, July 1, 2019 (AFP Photo)

A protester defaces the Hong Kong emblem after protesters broke into the government headquarters in Hong Kong, July 1, 2019 (AFP Photo)

'Failed' Carrie Lam administration

The Hong Kong government said it "strongly condemns and deeply regrets the extremely violent acts committed by some protesters who stormed the Legislative Council (LegCo) Complex this afternoon."

In a statement on its official website, it said protesters had used "a roll cage trolley as a ram and iron poles to shatter glass doors." Government headquarters will remain closed on Tuesday, according to a separate statement.

But the pro-democracy Civic Party said Lam should resign, adding that hers was a "failed" administration that should have listened to the demands of the protesters.

"Since June 9, the people of Hong Kong have made their demands very clear to the [Hong Kong] Special Administrative Region government in a number of different ways, which hid from them for days, holding private meetings with the Chinese Communist Party and the police, showing their contempt for public opinion," the party said in a statement on its Facebook page.

"[This] triggered the mass protests on July 1," it said. "Responsibility for the serious conflicts caused by public anger and the despair of the young people lies with Lam's administration, which has remained blinkered and insensitive, pushing Hong Kong to an unprecedented sociopolitical crisis."

The protest was the latest in a string of mass actions in recent weeks, amid growing anger over the extradition amendments, and the use of tear gas, rubber and textile bullets, pepper spray and batons by police on unarmed protesters on June 12.

The amendments are widely seen as a threat to Hong Kong's way of life, which was supposed to have been protected by 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 Chinese authorities, 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 Beijing 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 last month.

Reported by Wen Yuqing for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Qiao Long for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

June 27, 2019


Extradition Protests Continue in Hong Kong Amid Calls For International Support

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."

Police fire tear gas at protesters near the government headquarters in Hong Kong, on the 22nd anniversary of the city's handover from Britain to China, July 2, 2019. (RFA Photo)

Protesters raise slogans demanding talks with Hong Kong's Secretary for Justice, June 27, 2019. (RFA Photo)

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.

June 21, 2019


Hong Kong Police Face Mounting Criticism Over Use of Force on Protesters

Hong Kong police have been the target of mounting public criticism over their use of force during protests outside the city's legislature on June 12 against plans to allow extraditions to mainland China.

Police fired a total of 150 tear gas canisters, 20 bean-bag rounds and a handful of rubber bullets during the clashes, which the ruling Chinese Communist Party-controlled media and Hong Kong police officers described as a "riot."



At least 81 protesters and 22 police officers were injured in the clashes, according to official figures, although doctors have later reported patients who were too afraid to seek treatment for their injuries for fear that police would access hospital data to locate and arrest them following several in-hospital arrests.

Hong Kong police fire large amounts of tear gas on crowds during a mass protest over a controversial extradition bill, June 12, 2019. (RFA Photo)

Hong Kong police fire large amounts of tear gas on crowds during a mass protest over a controversial extradition bill, June 12, 2019. (RFA Photo)

But eyewitnesses told RFA that claims by chief executive Carrie Lam that the violence was necessary "to maintain law and order" glossed over the unnecessary use of force in ways that endangered unarmed and mostly young protesters.

Meanwhile, large numbers of video clips and photos posted to social media showed police beating protesters with batons, or close-ups of people's traumatic flesh-wounds after they were hit by textile or rubber bullets.

In other clips, police in full riot gear fired pepper spray into the eyes and faces of demonstrators and reporters, 26 of whom have since filed complaints to the independent police watchdog.

Among the most serious was the launch of several tear gas canisters into a fleeing crowd of protesters at close range outside the CITIC building, prompting scenes that many compared to a disaster movie.

The large crowd tried to escape the gas, but a bottleneck formed as they tried to file through a single open door into the building, with others trying to break down locked doors to let more through.

Tear gas is generally used as a way to disperse crowds, not to fire on trapped crowds, or on people who are already leaving the scene.

Shatin district councillor Chris Mak was present at the scene.

"I saw someone who had been doused all over in pepper spray ... they kept saying to me 'don't touch me, don't touch me, my whole body is soaked in pepper spray, and then you will suffer too," Mak told RFA. "That made me so sad, so I took him to the emergency [first aid] station for help."

"[Once we got there], a tear gas canister landed right beside my foot, and that guy just pushed me away saying I shouldn't help him, in case I got caught in it myself," he said. "I felt awful ... why were the police firing tear gas at the first aid stations? I hadn't charged them or anything, so why did they fire tear gas at me?"

Mak said police also confiscated protesters' supplies of bottled water, saline and masks, which they planned to use to protect themselves and treat those hit by tear gas and pepper spray.

A Dong, who was a first-aid volunteer on Tim Mei Avenue on June 12, said his help station was also fired on with tear gas, forcing everyone to run to a different street and causing a crush as a huge crowd tried to file into a relatively small space.

"What I saw was that the police didn't consider the safety of the protesters in doing this," he said. "The protesters had gathered peacefully in Tim Mei Road, and weren't charging [police lines]."

"But the police kept firing tear gas into a large crowd of people, non-stop, with the aim of forcing them onto Harcourt Road [further from the legislature]," A Dong said. "Actually, there was a really large number of people there, and we were all worried about a stampede or that somebody would get trampled underfoot."

In the immediate aftermath of the clashes, 15 people were arrested for "illegal assembly" or charges related to "rioting", with 17 other arrests made.

Police Commissioner Stephen Lo and Carrie Lam both referred to protesters as "rioters," which analysts said helped to spark a march of two million protesters through Hong Kong on the following Sunday, calling for a change in official language and the unconditional release of those arrested, as well as total withdrawal of the extradition amendments and Lam's resignation.

A police officer said the protests were designated a "riot" because protesters charged police lines in several places, meaning that police were then authorized to use tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse them.

"But some people still wouldn't leave," the officer said, adding that he thought police were being unfairly vilified over the incident.

Two other front line police officers who declined to be named that they were outside the Legislative Council (LegCo) on the day of the clashes.

They said police had fired tear gas after warning protesters not to try to charge police lines again.

In an apparent bid to soften official language around the clashes, Police Commissioner Lo announced on June 17 that only part of the protest had been designated a riot, and that only five of those arrested had been charged with "rioting."

But Progressive Lawyers Group convenor Billy Li said the concept of a designated "riot" is legally meaningless.

"Anything can be designated a riot where a group of people gather together and act to disturb public order," Li said. "If it breaches the peace, even if they don't resort to extreme behavior such as throwing bricks or burning tires, as long as there are clashes, this can constitute a 'riot'."

Li said such wording is legally meaningless and used purely for political effect.

Lam later said that anyone was welcome to lodge a complaint with the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) if they wanted to accuse police of misbehavior, while protesters countered that this wasn't easy owing to a lack of police identification number displaced on officers' uniforms.

But Civil Rights Observer group observer member Shum Wai-nam dismissed her suggestion as "ridiculous."

"In the 10 years since the IPCC was set up, it has been criticized ... because it is a case of the police investigating themselves, because only they have investigative powers; the IPCC itself does not, and that definitely isn't an effective system," Shum said.

"Its performance has been uninspiring from the start," he said. "No observer from the IPCC went to monitor the situation at such large-scale demonstrations, which I think is a total dereliction of duty on the part of the IPCC."

Speaking in LegCo on June 19, Civic Party lawmaker Au Nok-hin called on police to pledge to avoid upper-body injuries in the event of similar clashes.

"Was this continual firing the minimum level of force that you needed to use for the purpose of dispersing the crowd?" Au asked security secretary John Lee.

Lee, responding, apologized for a "lack of explanation" of police actions, but replied that the use of force had been "appropriate and necessary."

"The police will investigate these complaints in a fair and impartial manner," Lee said, but stopped short of ordering a public inquiry, another key demand of protesters.

His response prompted shouts for his resignation among pro-democracy lawmakers in the LegCo chamber.

Reported by Tam Siu-yin and Lee Wang-yam for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Lu Xi for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

June 16, 2019


Hong Kong People Demand Withdrawal of Extradition Bill in Massive Protest

Nearly two million people took to the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday to call for the total withdrawal of an extradition law, as crowds filled several streets in the downtown area in what organizers said was likely the biggest march in the city's history.

Protesters wearing black filled several major streets between Causeway Bay and government headquarters two miles away, shouting "Withdraw! Withdraw!" and calling for the resignation of the city's leader Carrie Lam, who announced on Saturday that her administration would "postpone" plans to allow people to be sent to face criminal charges in mainland China.



Live video footage from the city also showed thousands lining up to lay flowers at the Pacific Place shopping mall, where a man fell to his death on Saturday after unfurling a banner that read: "Completely Withdraw the China Extradition Bill. We Were Not Rioting. Release the Students and the Injured."

Hundreds of thousands fill Hong Kong's streets demanding 'complete withdrawal' of a bill allowing extraditions to mainland China, June 16, 2019. (Reuters Photo)

Hundreds of thousands fill Hong Kong's streets demanding 'complete withdrawal' of a bill allowing extraditions to mainland China, June 16, 2019. (Reuters Photo)

A yellow plastic raincoat hung near the mall, with the words "Carrie Lam is killing Hong Kong. The police are cold-blooded criminals." Fire services had earlier removed a large yellow banner that read "Defend Hong Kong" from the city's iconic Lion Rock in Kowloon.

Thousands of people also stood in queues waiting for public transport access to the route of the march, while thousands more poured into the area around government headquarters from other directions before the main march had even arrived.

Police had initially set aside only part of the highway for the march, but the sheer numbers attending meant that it quickly overspilled into several parallel streets, gradually closing off lanes available to traffic.

Police were visible, but were in regular uniforms, while crowds parted in an orderly manner to allow emergency vehicles and departing buses to clear the scene.

Numbers grow

As the crowd swelled with the incoming march, traffic came to a halt as protesters began taking up further space outside the central government complex on Harcourt Road, a key site of the 2014 Occupy Central movement for fully democratic elections.

By nightfall, the six-lane highway was packed with protesters waving lit up smartphones and chanting, with more continuing to arrive at the scene.

Later in the evening, while the crowd thinned, some protesters made plans to dig in for the night and begin an occupation, while others left messages of support and protest on the "Lennon Wall" used previously by pro-democracy campaigners in 2014.

Police tried early on Monday to persuade protesters to leave, government broadcaster RTHK reported, but were unsuccessful. However, the six-lane Harcourt Road urban highway was clear and open to traffic by 11.00 a.m. local time, the report said.

Most of the crowd were clad in black, as called for by protest organizers the Civil Human Rights Front, and many wore a white mourning flower as a mark of respect for the protester who died. High-schoolers folded white origami flowers, while flower shops donated white lilies to be used as a mark of respect at Pacific Place.

"What I really want is for Carrie Lam to withdraw the bill and relieve all the social pressure," the group's spokeswoman Bonnie Leung told reporters. "So we demand Carrie Lam apologize to the people ... to the protesters, also to withdraw saying that the protest was a riot."

"Only when Carrie Lam apologizes, withdraws the bill, and steps down will Hong Kong people end all of our protests," she said.

'No sort of answer'

Protesters on the ground agreed.

"I think Carrie Lam is talking rubbish," a student told RFA at the protest. "I think she's pussyfooting around the issue. I think she should withdraw the bill, not postpone it. That's no sort of an answer to give the people of Hong Kong."

One father said he had come out after his young son saw footage of the police beating protesters on Wednesday.

"I didn't have any way to explain why the nice policemen were dressed up as Transformers and beating up these unarmed kids," he said.

"We try to teach children that the police are there to protect everyone, but their actions that day were entirely about oppressing people."

After six hours of renewed protest on Sunday, Lam issued an apology via the government's press office.

"The Chief Executive apologizes to the public and promises to accept criticism with the utmost sincerity and humility," the statement said. "[She] acknowledges that government failings have caused a high degree of conflict and tension in Hong Kong society."

"The government reiterates that there is no timetable for restarting the process," it said, but stopped short of withdrawing the planned amendments entirely.

March organizers the Civil Human Rights Front dismissed the statement.

"This is no f***ing apology at all," the group said in a post on its Facebook page. "She is only apologizing for 'government failings,' not for pushing through this draconian bill or the violent crackdown by police."

Police violence protested

Protesters also waved signs that read "Stop Killing Us!" in protest at police violence against protesters who surrounded the city's Legislative Council (LegCo) on Wednesday, while others took issue with the government's description of that action as a "riot" that "forced" police to use batons, tear gas, rubber and bean bag bullets, and pepper spray to keep order.

Others held up banners that read "Hong Kong Limit. Do Not Cross!" and "You SHOT Us,!" in imitation of police warning banners used before the firing of tear gas rounds.

Police lined metal traffic barriers around government headquarters at the start of Sunday's march, but were relatively few in number, and most wore regular uniforms instead of full riot gear.

Some protesters wore T-shirts emblazoned with the words "Freedom - Hi!" in English, a pun on a Cantonese expletive shouted at protesters by a special police officer in a viral video earlier in the week.

Others chanted, in a reference to Carrie Lam's earlier remark that she would no more give in to protesters' demands than she would to her small child, "Carrie Lam is not our mom!"

Christian protesters sang a popular hymn "Sing Hallelujah to the Lord" and turned out to provide water and supplies to protesters, as well as to call for a peaceful demonstration.

The Civil Human Rights Front has also called for a general strike on Monday, vowing to go ahead with the strike unless Lam fully withdraws the extradition bill.

Support in Taiwan

Meanwhile, some 10,000 people turned out to support Hong Kong's protest in Taiwan, whose democratic government has repeatedly criticized the extradition bill and Lam's use of a Taiwan murder case as justification for closing a "legal loophole."

Holding up signs that read "Taiwan with Hong Kong,!" protesters gathered in the capital, Taipei, watching a live feed of the Hong Kong protests on a large screen.

Taiwan-based student activist Ho Wing-chan, who founded the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance Concern Group, said many present were angry over police violence meted out during Wednesday's protests.

"We condemn the Hong Kong government's suppression of peaceful protests, and we hold the police responsible," Ho said. "We demand that the Hong Kong government recognize that the demonstration on June 12 wasn't a riot."

"Please release all protesters and cease all prosecutions," he said. "We demand that the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance be withdrawn, not just postponed."

U.S.-based legal scholar Teng Biao also attended the Taiwan protest.

"Freedom isn't a gift, but a duty that everyone must fulfill," Teng said. "In supporting Hong Kong against China renditions, we should be able to render this law defunct, and the Chinese Communist Party regime with it."

Lin Fei-fan, who led the Sunflower movement that occupied Taiwan's parliament, the Legislative Yuan, to oppose closer ties with China under then president Ma Ying-jeou, said the postponement of the extradition bill means that it could be reintroduced to Hong Kong's legislature at any time.

"The Legislative Council could still move to amend the law ... allowing renditions to China in future," Lin said. "We must once again condemn the Hong Kong government."

'Living under the shadow'

Taiwan's foreign minister Joseph Wu tweeted: "I salute the brave #HongKong citizens on the streets, uncowed by the threat of police brutality. The people of #Taiwan share your values & struggle."

Wu said both Taiwan and Hong Kong live "under the shadow" of the Chinese Communist Party regime, which has refused to rule out the use of military force to invade and annex Taiwan in the name of "unification."

"We shall overcome together," he said.

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 all be targeted for actions deemed illegal by the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

The move to change Hong Kong's extradition laws has left many in Taiwan feeling very worried about their future, too.

In a Jan. 2 speech titled "Letter to our Taiwan compatriots," Chinese President Xi Jinping said that Taiwan must be "unified" with China and refused to rule out the use of military force to annex the island.

But Tsai has repeatedly said that Taiwan's population of 23 million have no wish to give up their sovereignty, a view that is borne out by repeated opinion polls.

Reported by Gao Feng for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Wen Yuqing and Chung Kuang-cheng for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

June 15, 2019


Hong Kong 'Suspends' Renditions Bill as Campaigners Insist on Total Withdrawal

Hong Kong's chief executive Carrie Lam on Saturday announced the suspension of her government's bid to change the city's extradition law to allow renditions to mainland China, but organizers of recent mass protests said the concession was unacceptable, and that a demonstration planned for Sunday would go ahead.

After repeated internal deliberations over the last two days, I now announce that the government has decided to suspend the legislative amendment exercise, restart our communication with all sectors of society, do more explanation work and listen to different views of society," Lam told a news conference on Saturday.


Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam announces suspension of work on a bill amending Hong Kong's extradition law, June 15, 2019. (RFA Photo)

Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam announces suspension of work on a bill amending Hong Kong's extradition law, June 15, 2019. (RFA Photo)


"The [Legislative] Council will halt its work in relation to the bill until our work in communication, explanation and listening to opinions is completed. We have no intention to set a deadline for this work," she said.

However, Lam stopped short of complete withdrawal of the bill, and continued to justify police use of rubber bullets, tear gas and pepper spray as a necessary means to restore "order."

The Civil Human Rights Front, which organized a million-strong peaceful protest against the proposed legal amendment last Sunday, said Lam's concession was unacceptable.

"The world was shocked by the fact that Hong Kong's police fired on its people," the group said in a response on its Facebook page. "Today, Carrie Lam's response was that it was a natural part of law enforcement. "

"Withdrawal, not suspension! See you tomorrow in Victoria Park!" it said, in a reference to the starting point for Sunday's march.

The post called for a complete withdrawal of the proposed amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance, a retraction of the government's description of protesters as "rioters," the pursuit of those responsible for police brutality, and for Lam's resignation.

Too little, too late

The group's position was echoed by pro-democracy lawmakers.

"Democrats in Hong Kong simply cannot accept this suspension, because a suspension is temporary," Claudia Mo, convenor of the pro-democracy camp in the Legislative Council (LegCo), told government broadcaster RTHK.

"The pain is still there; you are just delaying the pain," Mo said, calling Lam's concession "too little, too late."

"If she stays on, we stay on," Mo said in reference to Wednesday's surrounding of LegCo by protesters that sparked police violence and forced the legislature to shut down for two days.

Mo also called on the government to stop calling the mass protest a "riot."

"It was not a riot in any sense," she said.

Hong Kong police said they would facilitate "a safe and orderly public event" on Sunday.

"Police appeal to the event participants to remain calm, be considerate and co-operative, as well as to express their views in a peaceful manner," the government said in a news release about traffic arrangements for Sunday's march.

'Taiwan no excuse'

In her announcement, Lam said that the original urgency behind the extradition amendments had now been lost, because Taiwan officials had repeatedly said that their democratic government wouldn't follow any extradition process that resulted from them.

The inability of Hong Kong to extradite one of its residents to Taiwan to face trial for murder had been a key plank of Lam's justification for the renditions law.

But Taiwan foreign minister Joseph Wu hit out at Lam on Twitter, calling her attempt to use Taiwan as an excuse for the extradition plan "shameful."

"I’m deeply upset by the assault on freedom & #HumanRights in #HongKong," Wu wrote in a signed tweet on the Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs' official account.

"Chief Executive Carrie Lam must listen to the people & take full responsibility," Wu said. "Blaming #Taiwan is immoral, shameful & unacceptable. Embrace democracy & stand on the right side of history!"

Police condemned

Wednesday's protests by tens of thousands of people led to the postponement of a LegCo debate on the bill's second reading, and the widespread condemnation of police for their use of tear gas, rubber bullets, pepper spray, and beatings in their bid to disperse the crowds.

An estimated 1.03 million people took to the streets of Hong Kong last Sunday in a mass demonstration against the amendments, but Lam at that time merely reiterated her determination to get the proposed amendments to the extradition law through the legislature.

Critics fear the amendments could pose 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.

The move also sparked widespread concern that the city could lose its status as a separate legal jurisdiction and trading entity, and that journalists, visitors, rights activists, dissidents, democratic politicians, and the business community could all be targeted for actions deemed illegal by the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

Reported by RFA's Mandarin and Cantonese Services. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

June 12, 2019


Hong Kong Police Use Rubber Bullets, Tear Gas to Quell Extradition Protests

Police in Hong Kong fired rubber bullets, pepper spray, and tear gas at protesters as tens of thousands of people surrounded the city's legislature on Wednesday, in a bid to block a debate on a law allowing extradition to mainland China.

Crowds of mainly young people shouting "Withdraw the law!" and "No China renditions!" surrounded government headquarters and the Legislative Council (LegCo), which was forced to postpone a debate on the government's changes to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance.



Wielding umbrellas and wearing masks, protesters used metal road barriers to block off access to the LegCo chamber, charging past police in full riot gear to gain access to the street outside government headquarters in Admiralty district.

Police fire tear gas at protesters in Hong Kong's Admiralty District, June 12, 2019. (AFP Photo)

Police fire tear gas at protesters in Hong Kong's Admiralty District, June 12, 2019. (AFP Photo)

However, they were pushed back by several rounds of tear gas, with police eventually regaining control of the area on Wednesday evening.

Protesters said they had one basic demand.

"We want the government to withdraw these amendments, not to pass them," a protester who asked to remain anonymous said. "Even if we come out in force, the government will probably stick to its hardline position, but I still wanted to try."

"Nobody should be able to say we were indifferent about this," he said.

The government called the protests a "riot," warning that "any acts endangering public order and public safety will not be tolerated. Police will take resolute actions to restore social order and protect public safety."

It said police "had to escalate the use of force" after protesters repeatedly charged the police cordon line, ignoring warnings to clear the area, adding that some had set fires and attacked police officers with makeshift weapons, a claim that was hotly contested on social media.

'Excessive force'

London-based rights group Amnesty International called for an end to the use of "excessive" force by police.

"The excessive response from police is fueling tensions and is likely to contribute to worsening violence, rather than end it," Amnesty International's Hong Kong director Tam Man-kei said in a statement.

"The ugly scenes of police using tear gas and pepper spray against overwhelmingly peaceful protesters is a violation of international law," Tam said.

"Police have a duty to maintain public order, but in doing so they may use force only when strictly necessary. Hong Kong’s police have today failed to live up to this standard."

Tam said the police had taken advantage of the violent acts of a small minority to use force against the majority of peaceful protesters.

"Tear gas and projectiles like rubber bullets are notoriously inaccurate and indiscriminate and can result in serious injury and even death," Tam said.

A protester surnamed Au told RFA at the scene: "I wouldn't have been able to live with myself ... if I hadn't come out today to tell the government that this is unacceptable. I would have been letting down the next generation."

"Maybe if you do nothing because you are scared or worried, you have already affected the outcome," she said. "At least action is a kind of outcome, and it's better than wrestling with your conscience."

A fellow protester surnamed Wong said people were infuriated at the attempt by the administration of chief executive Carrie Lam to railroad through LegCo amendments that will enable the ruling Chinese Communist Party to request the handover of alleged criminal suspects to face trial in mainland Chinese courts.

"Really, I think there should have been some time for debate," Wong said. "The whole thing was rushed and forced through from the start, and the amendments were problematic in so many ways."

The clashes came after workers went on a strike called by pro-democracy politicians, students boycotted class, and many businesses closed in protest at the amendments.

LegCo President Andrew Leung announced that the scheduled date on the legal changes would now happen at an unspecified "later time."

Pro-democracy lawmakers are calling for the debate to be canceled outright and the amendments to be withdrawn.

Police fire tear gas at protesters in Hong Kong's Admiralty District, June 12, 2019. (AFP Photo)

Police fire tear gas at protesters in Hong Kong's Admiralty District, June 12, 2019. (AFP Photo)

Protests will continue

Jimmy Sham, convenor of co-organizers the Civil Human Rights Front, has said the protests and occupation will continue until Lam withdraws the planned amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance.

Civic Party lawmaker Au Nok-hin announced Leung's decision to a waiting crowd, saying it was both good and bad news.

"The good news is that the debate will now not happen at 11.00 a.m.," he said.

Democratic Party lawmaker Andrew Wan said the cancelation of the debate signaled an initial victory for the protesters.

"This is your victory, isn't it?" Wan told protesters. "But we can't leave today, because they have to withdraw the amendments entirely."

"I really hope that everyone will show restraint, and not give the powers that be any excuse to suppress us," he said. "This is just the beginning ... this isn't over. They must withdraw the amendment!"

Police fire tear gas at protesters in Hong Kong's Admiralty District, June 12, 2019. (AFP Photo)

Police fire tear gas at protesters in Hong Kong's Admiralty District, June 12, 2019. (AFP Photo)

A dangerous juncture

Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai agreed.

"It should be very clear by now that Hong Kong is at a dangerous juncture," Wu said. "We do not want any unpleasant incidents."

"But we know that many Hong Kong citizens are waiting for Carrie Lam to withdraw this evil law, which is the only way to stop this display of public anger," Wu said.

Labour Party lawmaker Fernando Cheung said withdrawal of the proposals was now the only responsible way forward for Lam's administration.

"At the very least, she should shelve it and resolve the crisis," Cheung said. "Tensions are so high right now that I fear young people in Hong Kong will get hurt if she takes a hard line and requires the police to use force."

And People Power lawmaker Raymond Chan said continuing with the LegCo debate would further inflame the situation.

"Everything that is said, and every argument that is made, will motivate more Hong Kong people to come out," Chan said. "We feel that we should not go ahead in a situation of such urgency."

"[The delay] will also give the government more time to think ... and to seriously consider withdrawing this evil law," he said.

Seven former high-ranking officials in the Hong Kong government added their voices to the growing calls for the amendments to be shelved or withdrawn.

Meanwhile, religious groups including the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong and Buddhist, Taoist, and Muslim groups issued a joint statement calling on the government to seek a solution in a restrained and peaceful way.

Police fire tear gas at protesters in Hong Kong's Admiralty District, June 12, 2019. (AFP Photo)

'Utterly saddened'

On the democratic island of Taiwan, President Tsai Ing-wen said she was "utterly saddened" to see rubber bullets being fired in Hong Kong.

"To the people of Hong Kong: you may feel your demands for freedom seem to fall on deaf ears, please know that all like-minded friends in #Taiwan & around the world are standing with you," Tsai said via her Twitter account.

Johns Hopkins University politics professor Ho-fung Hung said the protests had at least demonstrated clearly to the rest of the world the strength of opposition to the rendition law in Hong Kong.

"The people of Hong Kong have uttered a resounding 'No!', and if the government continues to stick to its hard line, then this will be quite simply be violent coercion," Hung wrote in a commentary aired on RFA's Cantonese Service on Wednesday.

"If Hong Kong people hadn't taken to the streets in huge numbers, the powers that be would be able to create the illusion that they weren't strongly opposed to the amendments, or that they even supported it," he said.

"Taking to the streets is still important, because it serves as a strong and clear expression of public opinion," Hung wrote.

Public anger, opposition

An estimated 1.03 million people took to the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday in a massive outpouring of public anger, but Lam merely reiterated her determination to get the proposed amendments to the extradition law through the legislature, a move critics said sparked clashes between police and protesters as most participants went home.

Critics fear the planned amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance, which will likely be waved through by a pro-Beijing majority in LegCo, pose 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.

The amendment—which the ruling Chinese Communist Party wants implemented "urgently"—has sparked widespread fear that the city will lose its status as a separate legal jurisdiction, and that rights activists and dissidents in the city could be targeted by Beijing for actions deemed illegal across the internal border.

Judges, lawyers, opposition politicians, rights activists, business groups, and journalists have all expressed vocal opposition to the plan, which will allow China to request the extradition of an alleged suspect from Hong Kong based on the standards of evidence that currently apply in its own courts.

The most likely jurisdiction to use the proposed provision is mainland China, which currently has no formal extradition treaty with Hong Kong, and Lam has tried to reassure people that legal safeguards will be used to safeguard the rights of suspects.

But lawyers, who last week staged a silent protest at the planned amendments, say the government's supposed safeguards are meaningless.

Reported by Tam Siu-yin, Wong Lok-to and Wen Yuqing for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Qiao Long for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

June 9, 2019


One Million March in Hong Kong Against Renditions to Mainland China

Police fired pepper spray on several hundred protesters who gathered in Hong Kong at the tail end of a million-strong protest on Sunday against plans to allow the rendition of alleged criminal suspects to mainland China.

Riot police were called in after several hundred protesters besieged the city's legislature at the end of the march, which had otherwise gone peacefully, government broadcaster RTHK reported in the early hours of Monday, local time.



It said protesters who heeded a call to besiege the Legislative Council (LegCo) ended up in violent clashes with the police shortly after midnight, with officers repeatedly firing pepper spray and hitting demonstrators with batons.

Hong Kong witnessed its largest street protest in at least 15 years, as crowds massed against plans to allow extraditions to China, June 9, 2019.  (AFP Photo)

Hong Kong witnessed its largest street protest in at least 15 years, as crowds massed against plans to allow extraditions to China, June 9, 2019. (AFP Photo)

The protesters blocked a street, ramming police officers with metal barriers and threw bottles at them during chaotic scenes, RTHK said, adding that a number of journalists were also injured in the melee.

The police warned protesters that all their gatherings were illegal, it said.

As an estimated 1.03 million people took to the streets of Hong Kong in a massive outpouring of public anger, the city's government reiterated its determination to get the proposed amendments to the extradition law through the legislature.

Shouting "Withdraw the evil law!" and "Oppose renditions to China!" protesters -- many of whom were wearing white to represent "light and justice" -- continued to crowd onto the city's streets after the march left Victoria Park, swelling the ranks of the demonstration in spite of police attempts to impose crowd controls at key subway stations along the route.

The number of passengers alighting at Tin Hau, North Point, Causeway Bay and Tsimshatsui stations were subject to police controls, with some trains ordered not to stop at Tin Hau at all.

A protester surnamed Wong who said he had just graduated high school said the planned amendments to the Fugitive Offenders' Ordinance would pose 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.

"I'm a Hong Konger born and bred, and I would have come on this march with my last breath, to speak out for Hong Kong," Wong told RFA. "The [proposed amendments to the] Fugitive Offenders Ordinance pose such a threat to Hong Kong."

"If passed, this law will have a huge impact on Hong Kong."

Yellow umbrellas

Marchers waved placards saying "No China Extradition!", while many in the crowd carried yellow umbrellas reminiscent of the 2014 democracy movement bearing the words: "Keep hold of freedom: oppose the evil law!"

"There are so many people here," eyewitness Wang Yan told RFA.

"They're on the sidewalks, on the overhead bridges. It's so packed that we can't move."

"I've been coming to demonstrations for many years now, and this is the biggest one I've seen."

A fellow protester surnamed Ho said he had brought his daughter on the march.

"This government won't listen to reason, so we'll have to make them listen to reason, and undergo consultation, and do this properly," Ho said. "They shouldn't railroad this law through [the legislature]."

"I need to know exactly why they want to amend this law: matters that have a huge impact on everyone shouldn't be decided on the say-so of one or two individuals," he said.

A protester surnamed Lee said the amendments, once implemented, will offer the ruling Chinese Communist Party a range of excuses to take Hong Kong residents across the border to face trial.

The government's planned legal amendment—which the ruling Chinese Communist Party wants implemented "urgently"—has sparked widespread fear that the city will lose its status as a separate legal jurisdiction, and that rights activists and dissidents in the city could be targeted by Beijing for actions deemed illegal across the internal border.

Judges, lawyers, opposition politicians, rights activists, business groups, and journalists have all expressed vocal opposition to the plan, which will allow China to request the extradition of an alleged suspect from Hong Kong based on the standards of evidence that currently apply in its own courts.

Hong Kong witnessed its largest street protest in at least 15 years, as crowds massed against plans to allow extraditions to China, June 9, 2019.  (AFP Photo)

Legal safeguards doubted

The most likely jurisdiction to use the proposed provision is mainland China, which currently has no formal extradition treaty with Hong Kong, and Lam has tried to reassure people that legal safeguards will be used to safeguard the rights of suspects.

But lawyers say said the government's supposed safeguards are meaningless, and said they had staged a silent protest in a bid to get more people out onto the streets for Sunday's march.

Some protesters faced off with police on Sunday after the authorities refused to open up more traffic lanes to accommodate the demonstration.

"According to the notice of no objection to this protest issued by police, you are obliged to use the sidewalk, the westbound traffic lane and the east-west tram line for the march," a police officer told protesters.

However, a number of protesters leaped over the barrier, blocking oncoming traffic at Causeway Bay, which had no way to move in any direction.

By the time the march arrived outside Hong Kong's Legislative Council at around 4.00 p.m. local time, police had opened up all lanes of traffic along its route to protesters.

Seven people were arrested during the protest, one of them for assaulted a police officer, a police spokesman said on Sunday, calling on demonstrators to leave the area as soon as the march was over.

"The police would like to call on all protesters to leave the area in a peaceful and orderly manner after arriving at government headquarters," the spokesman said.

The Hong Kong government recognized the right of protesters to express their views, but refused to change the planned passage of the bill through LegCo.

"As a free, open and pluralistic society, we acknowledge and respect that people have different views on a wide range of issues," the government said in an official statement on the march.

"We note that apart from some obstructions to traffic, the march, though large, was generally peaceful and orderly," it said, but repeated its insistence that there are adequate safeguards built into the amendments to prevent politically motivated extraditions to mainland China.

Trumped-up charges feared

Citing its inability to extradite a Taiwanese man suspected of murdering his girlfriend owing to a lack of discretionary power covering jurisdictions not covered by formal extradition treaties, the government said the amendments were aimed at preventing Hong Kong from becoming a "bolt-hole" for criminals.

"None of these serious criminal offences [covered by the renditions bill] relate to the freedom of assembly, of the press, of speech, of academic freedom or publication," the statement said. "And no surrender for a political offence or if the purported charges are in fact on account of race, religion, nationality or political opinions."

But journalists and rights activists say they could just as easily be extradited on a trumped-up charge, should the ruling Chinese Communist Party decide it wanted to retaliate against someone in Hong Kong, whether living there or simply visiting.

The Hong Kong Journalists' Association (HKJA) has warned that journalists have already been targeted for political reasons in China, using "baseless allegations ... including possession of drugs, smuggling, bribery and fraud."

Under the planned amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance, China would be able to request the extradition of an alleged suspect based on the standards of evidence that currently apply in its own courts, the HKJA said in a statement earlier this month.

"We urge the Legislative Council to scrutinise the Bill in a calm, reasonable and respectful manner to help ensure Hong Kong remains a safe city for residents and business," the government said.

"The Second Reading debate on the Bill will resume on June 12," it said, indicating that it will stick to its original intention of passing the amendments ahead of the summer recess.

Claudia Mo, who convenes the pan-democratic camp of lawmakers in LegCo, said chief executive Carrie Lam is pushing the bill through at Beijing's behest.

"Beijing has become increasingly impatient with Hong Kong since our umbrella movement five years ago," she said. "[The Chinese leadership] sees us as an unruly teenager who doesn't learn to be grateful and obedient."

"The idea is to - ultimately - disappear Hong Kong, or at least to change it into one of the numerous Chinese cities," Mo told RTHK on Sunday. "Like a little boat, Hong Kong is sinking fast, but we're not taking this lying down, we have to put up a fight," she said.

In Washington, a State Department spokesman said the U.S. is following developments in Hong Kong very closely, and that the proposed amendments were indicative of a "serious erosion" of the city's traditional rights and freedoms, as promised under the terms of the handover.

They would also affect Hong Kong's international standing as a free port and separate jurisdiction from mainland China, the spokesman said.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio said he is also extremely concerned over the extradition plans. In a statement, he said. Rubio vowed to table the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Bill in Congress, which would require a review of Hong Kong's status as a separate trading jurisdiction.

Hong Kong witnessed its largest street protest in at least 15 years, as crowds massed against plans to allow extraditions to China, June 9, 2019.  (AFP Photo)

Reported by Wong Lok-to for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Qiao Long for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

June 6, 2019


Hong Kong's Lawyers March in Silence, Black Clothes Over Renditions to China

Thousands of lawyers clad in black took to the streets of Hong Kong Thursday in protest at plans to allow the rendition of alleged criminal suspects to mainland China.

The lawyers came out of the Court of Final Appeal in the city's central business district and marched in silence to government headquarters, with applause from onlookers as they went.



They were joined by prominent pro-democracy figures including Democratic Party founder Martin Lee, rights activist and barrister Albert Ho, and current Civic Party Legislative Council (LegCo) member Dennis Kwok.

Hong Kong lawyers protest proposed amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance, June 6, 2019.  (RFA Photo)

Hong Kong lawyers protest proposed amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance, June 6, 2019. (RFA Photo)

Ronny Wong, former head of the Hong Kong Bar Association, said the government had refused to listen to the opionions of the city's legal profession, and hit out at officials' claims that there were adequate human rights protections in the proposed amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance currently before LegCo.

"It is completely unreasonable that they are demolishing the [legal] firewall [between Hong Kong and mainland China] with no justification, and against the interests of the Hong Kong people," Wong told reporters at the rally. "

March organizer Dennis Kwok said as many as 3,000 lawyers had taken part.

"The legal profession is coming out in the hope that the people of Hong Kong will listen to them, and oppose this amendment," Kwok said.

"Their position is very clear: they think this amendment will destroy the rule of law," he said. "I hope even more Hong Kong people will turn out at Victoria Park now that the legal profession has come out against it."

Widespread fear

The government's planned legal amendment—which the ruling Chinese Communist Party wants implemented "urgently"—has sparked widespread fear that the city will lose its status as a separate legal jurisdiction, and that rights activists and dissidents in the city could be targeted by Beijing for actions deemed illegal across the internal border.

Judges, lawyers, opposition politicians, rights activists, business groups, and journalists have all expressed vocal opposition to the plan, which will allow China to request the extradition of an alleged suspect from Hong Kong based on the standards of evidence that currently apply in its own courts.

The most likely jurisdiction to use the proposed provision is mainland China, which currently has no formal extradition treaty with Hong Kong, and Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam has tried to reassure people that legal safeguards will be used to safeguard the rights of suspects.

But Wong said the government's supposed safeguards are meaningless.

"How are the courts going to act as a check. They are utterly ineffectual," he said, adding that the government's attempted justification of the amendment was "false."

Civic Party lawmaker Alvin Yeung said that while previous protests by Hong Kong lawyers were sparked by intervention by China's National People's Congress (NPC) in the city's political life, this one is the first to target the actions of the city's own government.

"This is mostly about the actions and ideas of the Hong Kong government," Yeung said. "The NPC hasn't even played a role in this."

'An outrage'

A protesting lawyer who gave only his surname Fung said he had joined the march to protest at the government's attempts to railroad the amendments through LegCo, where customary committee-level scrutiny of the bill has been canceled.

"The wording of the amendment, and the way they have handled this from the start, are an outrage," Fung said. "The outcome will be the death of the rule of law in Hong Kong and the city's future."

"Once we lose the rule of law in Hong Kong, we are finished," he said. "That is the one thing that gives Hong Kong its added value."

A participant surnamed Ho said he wanted to express his concern over the lack of power by the courts to stop a proposed extradition once it has been requested.

"The government isn't acting in good faith, nor is it respecting due process or listening to people's views," Ho said. "I think that the government is determined to get its proposal through, and any concessions made along the way have been made on recommendations from the business community."

The march comes as five pro-democracy LegCo members occupied the LegCo chamber on Thursday ahead of a larger march against the renditions law that is planned for Sunday.

Chu Hoi-dick, Jeremy Tam, Roy Kwong, Ted Hui, and Gary Fan said they will take it in turns to occupy the building over the weekend in a bid to raise public awareness of the protest.

Across the border in mainland China, activists said a WeChat social media group supporting the campaign against the extradition law had been shut down. Group member Li Na said the Chinese government is worried that such demonstrations could spread to China.

Reported by Lee Wang-yam for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Qiao Long and Lu Xi for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

March 31, 2019


Thousands in Hong Kong Protest Planned 'Renditions' to China

Thousands of people took to the streets of Hong Kong at the weekend in protest at proposed changes to the city's extradition laws that could see people sent to mainland China to face prosecution, even in the absence of an extradition agreement, on a case-by-case basis.

An estimated 12,000 people turned out to march to government headquarters on Sunday, according to march organizers, as rights groups called on the Hong Kong government to scrap the proposals.



Marchers carried placards that read "No to extradition to mainland China," and shouted "There is no good reason to amend the extradition law!" and "Oppose Hong Kong turning into mainland China and extradition to black jails!"

Activists took to the streets of Hong Kong at the weekend in protest at proposed changes to the city's extradition laws that could see people sent to mainland China to face prosecution, March 31, 2019.  (RFA Photo)

Activists took to the streets of Hong Kong at the weekend in protest at proposed changes to the city's extradition laws that could see people sent to mainland China to face prosecution, March 31, 2019. (RFA Photo)

Jimmy Sham of march organizers the Civil Human Rights Front called on the government to drop the amendment, which is due to be tabled in the city's Legislative Council (LegCo) on Wednesday.

"We can see that the government can only force this legislation through LegCo," Sham said. "They have also muddied the waters by taking commercial crimes off the table, and deflecting public anger onto the business community."

Critics say China -- the most likely jurisdiction to use the proposed system -- lacks any judicial independence, paving the way for human rights abuses involving suspects beyond China's borders.

The World Justice Project in 2017/18 ranked China’s justice system 75th out of 113 countries, while Hong Kong came 16th.

Canadian arrests cited

A student social worker surnamed Chow who attended the march said that there was no way to guarantee the rights of suspects rendered to mainland China under the proposals.

"The [government's] explanation is not convincing, because even if some commercial and political crimes are ruled out ... because it fails to ensure a fair trial once someone ... is sent to mainland China," Chow said.

Currently, suspects must be wanted for a crime that is an offense both in Hong Kong and another jurisdiction with which it has an extradition treaty, and requests are limited to a list of 46 serious crimes including murder, assault and sex offenses.

But under the proposed changes, citizens of the democratic island of Taiwan and other countries traveling through Hong Kong could also be placed in jeopardy, should Beijing decide that it wanted to accuse them of a crime.

Democratic politicians have pointed to the arrests of several Canadian nationals on Chinese territory since the arrest of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver on Dec. 1, 2018, and to the 2015 cross-border detentions of five booksellers -- including a Swedish and a U.K. national -- wanted for selling books banned in mainland China to customers there, despite the fact that their actions were entirely legal in Hong Kong.

One of the five booksellers, Lam Wing-kei, told RFA that he plans to leave Hong Kong if the amendments make it into law.

"There are charges against me in mainland China, which are 'illegally selling books,' that haven't been dropped," said Lam, who departed from the confessional script agreed with Chinese police prior to his conditional release, and held a press conference about his ordeal on arriving back in Hong Kong.

"It's very clear to me that if this law passes, then there is a basis on which to extradite me," he said. "I don't trust the Hong Kong government to guarantee my personal safety, nor that of any other Hong Kong resident, in the event that this law passes."

Arbitrary detention, torture, and ill-treatment

Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam on Monday dismissed concerns that the new legislation being tabled in the city's Legislative Council on Wednesday will enable Beijing to pick and choose suspects, saying that the bill will include "a range of human rights and procedural safeguards in the system."

The government has already dropped a slew of white collar crimes from the legislation following concerns from the business sector that retaliatory charges could be brought as strong-arm tactics in business disputes.

Hong Kong officials say that only high-level Chinese authorities, such as the Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of Justice, would be able to make an extradition request to Hong Kong.

But rights groups warned on Monday that the proposed amendments will effectively result in the removal of safeguards.

"The guarantees are actually unlikely to provide real protection," a March 31 letter posted to Twitter by London-based rights group Amnesty International and co-signed by the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor said.

HRW China director Sophie Richardson said the proposed changes should be scrapped.

"The proposed changes to Hong Kong’s extradition laws would permit transfers to mainland China, putting Hong Kong people at risk of torture and unfair trials," Richardson said in a statement on the group's website. "The amendments would tarnish Hong Kong’s reputation for the rule of law, and should be scrapped."

China's justice system has a record of arbitrary detention, torture, and other ill-treatment, of serious violations of fair trial rights, and of various systems of incommunicado detention without trial, HRW said.

"These amendments would heighten the risk for human rights activists and others critical of China being extradited to the mainland for trial on fabricated charges," Richardson said. "This is a devastating blow to the freedoms promised Hong Kong upon its handover to Chinese sovereignty in 1997."

Reported by Lau Siu-fung for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

Feb 18, 2019


Many in Hong Kong Fear Greater Integration with Mainland China

The ruling Chinese Communist Party is moving ahead with greater integration between the former colonial cities of Hong Kong and Macau and the rest of China, amid fears that ever-closer integration -- including streamlined extradition procedures -- could further erode traditional freedoms and human rights protections.

China's cabinet, the State Council, published a lengthy blueprint on Monday setting out its plans to integrate 11 major cities in the Pearl River Delta region, including Hong Kong, Macau, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Zhuhai.


A mainland Chinese couple pose for photographs at a viewing deck before the skyline of Hong Kong island across the harbour, Feb. 16, 2019.   (AFP Photo)

A mainland Chinese couple pose for photographs at a viewing deck before the skyline of Hong Kong island across the harbour, Feb. 16, 2019. (AFP Photo)


Strategically, the plan positions Hong Kong as a financial center that will raise funds for China's "Belt and Road" infrastructure plan, drawing on the economic strength of the mainland Chinese cities.

The plan for 2022-2035 will "support Hong Kong and Macau to integrate into China's overall development," according to a copy published on the State Council website.

"[It will] enable compatriots from Hong Kong and Macau to share the historic responsibility of national rejuvenation ... and the prosperity of the motherland," it sid.

It said the Pearl River Delta region -- with an economy valued at some 10 trillion yuan in 2017 – would play an important role in the "Belt and Road" project linking China to crucial strategic resources and markets.

"Hong Kong, Macau and the nine cities of the Pearl River Delta have the same cultural homogeneity, close kinship, similar folk customs and complementary advantages," according to the plan, which will seek to build a large-scale and "world-class" conurbation there.

"Further close exchanges and cooperation between the mainland and Hong Kong and Macau will provide more opportunities for economic and social development ... and maintain long-term prosperity and stability in Hong Kong and Macau," it said.

Beijing will be pursuing a coordinated development strategy that will boost infrastructure links, green development and innovation in the region, the plan said.

"By 2022, ... cooperation between Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau will be more extensive ... and the level of interconnection and interoperability will be further enhanced," it said, adding that "cultural exchange activities" would have become more frequent.

However, many in Hong Kong fear too much integration with mainland China.

Loss of status feared

Civic Party leader and lawmaker Alvin Yeung said closer integration could lose Hong Kong its status as a free port and separate trade jurisdiction in the eyes of the international community.

Yeung said the plan's insistence on cutting-edge technology as part of the region's economic integration could heighten such concerns in the eyes of members of the U.S. Congress.

"I am very worried about that, but also about mainland Chinese companies using Hong Kong to turn themselves into Hong Kong companies, and using their Hong Kong-registered status to acquire various technologies, giving rise to international concern," he said.

"This would harm Hong Kong's interests in the long term."

Meanwhile, Ivan Choy, a senior politics lecturer at the Chinese University of Hong Kong said that greater economic ties were not the only likely outcome of the plan.

"It could mean that there is greater assimilation ... and all I can say is that I hope that Hong Kong's core values would be respected, rather than distorted," Choy said.

"I hope that they won't force us to accommodate them," he said.

Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam welcomed the plan, however.

"The development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area is a national strategy personally devised, personally planned and personally driven by President Xi Jinping," the city's government said in a statement on Monday. "It is a key development strategy in the country's reform and opening up in the new era."

"The Hong Kong SAR Government will fully seize the opportunities brought about by the development of the Greater Bay Area," it said.

And Lam's second-in-command Matthew Cheung said China's promises of autonomy and a separate legal jurisdiction for Hong Kong following the 1997 handover would be kept, under the "one country, two systems" framework, however.

"[Regional] development won't weaken one country, two systems ... It is obvious to anyone that Hong Kong is the most open city in the country, and it has the rule of law," Cheung said.

Rendition to mainland

However, the city's government is currently mulling plans to allow the executive rendition of criminal suspects to China at Beijing's request.

Pro-democracy group Demosisto said the changes were an attempt to make it easier for China to "entrap" Hong Kong citizens who raised their voices in dissent against Beijing's policies.

"The Hong Kong government’s proposition to change a current law is an attempt to prepare to entrap oppositional voices for China, and is a step towards judicial integration and eroding Hong Kong’s legal system, allowing Hong Kong citizens to be subjected to an autocratic Court," the group said in a Feb. 17 statement on its Facebook page.

It said citizens of Taiwan and other countries could also be placed in jeopardy by the proposed changes, should they travel through Hong Kong, should Beijing decide that it wanted to accuse them of a crime.

"Hong Kong should not hand over suspects to places that do not meet the standards of international human rights law, let alone to a legal system that is completely different from our own," the statement said, pointing to the arrests of several Canadian nationals on Chinese territory since the arrest of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver on Dec. 1, 2018.

It also cited the cross-border detentions of five booksellers -- including a Swedish and a U.K. national -- wanted for selling books banned in mainland China to customers there, despite the fact that their actions were entirely legal in Hong Kong.

Currently, suspects must be wanted for a crime that is an offense in both jurisdictions, and to a list of 46 serious crimes including murder, assault and sex offenses.

"Permitting a major criminal to stay in Hong Kong not only marks a violation of justice but also poses risk to public safety here," the city's Security Bureau said in recent statement, proposing that suspects could be arrested on the basis of a certificate issued by the city's chief executive instead. Judicial challenges would be available under the new system, but it was unclear whether there would be time for a suspect to initiate them.

But critics say China -- the most likely jurisdiction to use the system -- lacks any judicial independence, paving the way for human rights abuses, should Hong Kong change the rules on extradition.

The World Justice Project in 2017/18 ranked China’s justice system 75th out of 113 countries, while Hong Kong came 16th.

Reported by Wong Lok-to for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Lu Xi for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

Map of Hong Kong's protest location

Map of Hong Kong's protest location   (RFA Graphic)