Protesters opposed to legislation they fear would reduce Hong Kong’s judicial independence yesterday rallied outside the Hong Kong Department of Justice, as the territory’s leader remained out of public view for a second week.
A few hundred people staged a sit-in on the street in front of the department, demanding that Hong Kong Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng (鄭若驊) withdraw the now-suspended bills and drop charges against protesters arrested after a June 12 protest that turned violent.
The action was the latest in a series of protests this month targeting police headquarters and government offices.
Photo: Sam Yeh, AFP
“Withdraw the evil bill, release the protesters, there were no riots, only a tyrannical government,” protest leader Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) told the crowd.
Police briefly attempted to push the crowd back onto the sidewalk, but eventually relented and permitted them to occupy the road.
Some protesters took it upon themselves to direct traffic around the gathering.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥) has not been seen in public since issuing a televised apology nearly two weeks ago for mishandling the extradition legislation.
Hong Long Legislator Kwok Ka-ki (郭家麒) of the opposition Civic Party suggested that she request a long-term leave of absence.
“To refuse to appear, to refuse to acknowledge a request and to refuse to make a decision is entirely irresponsible,” Kwok was quoted as saying by Radio Television Hong Kong.
“It will only hurt Hong Kong more,” he said of Lam’s absence.
Lam’s push to pass the extradition bills prompted hundreds of thousands of people to fill Hong Kong’s streets in protest marches earlier this month.
The proposed changes would have allowed suspects to be extradited from Hong Kong to mainland China for trial.
Many fear the proposals would erode Hong Kong’s judicial independence and the civil liberties the territory was guaranteed after its handover from British rule in 1997.
Several thousand people on Wednesday night joined a rally that capped a day-long appeal to world leaders to take up the issue at today’s G20 leaders’ summit in Osaka, Japan, which brings together the presidents of China and the US and other world leaders.
Beijing has strongly opposed any discussion of the issue at the summit, saying Hong Kong matters are an internal Chinese affair.
The government has suspended debate on the legislation indefinitely, making it unlikely to pass during Lam’s term, but protesters are demanding it be officially withdrawn.
They also are seeking an independent inquiry into the police response to a June 12 demonstration, when officers fired tear gas and rubber bullets at the crowd, and dozens were injured on both sides.
Following Wednesday night’s rally, a large group of protesters besieged police headquarters for the second time in less than a week.
They spray-painted slogans on the walls, threw eggs at the building and shouted insults at police officers until well after midnight.
Police waited them out before clearing out a few dozen remaining protesters at about 3am.
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