Thousands of protesters again hit Hong Kong’s streets

Hong kong

Thousands of people gathered in Hong Kong on Friday calling for the territory’s leader to resign and for the government to scrap a controversial extradition bill.

Thousands of demonstrators again occupied Hong Kong's downtown area on Friday (Al Jazeera photo)

Thousands of demonstrators again occupied Hong Kong’s downtown area on Friday (Al Jazeera photo)

Responding to calls on social media, demonstrators started arriving outside the Legislative Council Complex at about 7.00 a.m. (23:00 GMT on Thursday).

People were urged to renew their protests after a Thursday afternoon deadline for the government to respond to their demands passed without any official response.

Many were students dressed in black and wearing goggles and facemasks.

The Police headquarters in Wan Chai, about a 500-metre walk from the legislature offices, was a new focal point for Friday’s actions.

Several hundred protesters staged a sit-in in front of the building’s main entrance.

Joshua Wong – the recently released activist leader who rose to prominence during the 2014 Umbrella Revolution – told Al Jazeera he could possibly be re-arrested under the “hardline suppression of the police force” for taking part in an unauthorised protest.

Wong said the demonstration at police headquarters showed the anger of the protesters at the treatment of their comrades at the hands of riot officers after violent clashes last week.

He said, however, Friday’s actions were a peaceful occupation of the roads around the building, and protesters would not try to storm the complex.

Wong said his organisation, Demosisto, encouraged people to join the demonstration, and the past two weeks encouraged his sense of Hong Kongers’ political and civil sense.

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“It’s the miracle of Hong Kong,” said Wong.

‘Ready for it’

An athletics coach named Ho, 19, who uses the nickname Annikan, said the mood over the past two weeks was changing and getting “messy”.

“The government doesn’t want to cancel the bill or release our people,” he said, referring to dozens of detained protesters.

“We don’t hope for violence [today] but are ready for it. Our medical station is well supplied.”

People in Hong Kong have marched in their millions this month to oppose a bill they fear will undermine Hong Kong’s judicial independence and tighten China’s grip on the semi-autonomous region.

The movement has expanded into a larger rebuke of Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who announced on June 15 she would suspend the bill, but stopped short of withdrawing it completely.

Cheung, 21, a City University student, said there are “numerous issues” that Hong Kongers are mad about.

“The chief executive said that the bill would be delayed. It needs to be scrapped and we are also protesting the violent reaction of the Hong Kong police.”

She said that “both” peaceful protest and more direct action are needed. “I won’t judge anyone who uses violence. They just want to support Hong Kong.”

‘Don’t shoot’

Some at the government complex brought placards asking the police not to shoot at them, in a reference to outbreaks of violence that marred last week’s rallies when police fired tear gas, rubber bullets, and bean bags at protesters.

Anger at a perceived lack of accountability after police violence was growing. “In the last few days, police officials have said that they haven’t done anything wrong,” said a 20-year-old student surnamed Kong.

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“We no longer have confidence in the police, and we won’t allow the incident to be forgotten.”

Volunteers, some with medical experience, were manning makeshift first-aid tents.

Chan, also a 20-year-old who declined to be identified by anything but her surname, said students were leading the charge in the absence of support by adults. “They’re not thinking about the future of Hong Kong,” she said.

Since it was returned to China in 1997, Hong Kong has been governed under the so-called “one country, two systems” formula that allows the city’s residents freedoms not enjoyed in mainland China.

But many people in Hong Kong are increasingly fearful of Beijing’s tightening grip over the city and what they see as an erosion of civil liberties.

Opposition to the bill has united pro-democracy and human rights groups with student activists and the traditionally more conservative business and financial communities, amid concern the proposals will expose people to the mainland’s opaque and politicised judicial system and undermine Hong Kong’s status as a global financial centre.

The protests, and the causes behind them, will continue to affect the city financially, according to one banker who declined to be named.

“Obviously [the political situation] is having an effect” on the international business community’s confidence in the city – long vaunted for its adherence to the rule of law and low levels of corruption.

But, he added, “At the same time the protests show the city’s commitment to ‘one country, two systems’, which is reassuring.”

 

SOURCE: Al-Jazeera

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