Tue, Jun 18, 2019 - Page 3 News List

INTERVIEW: HK a reminder to never back down, protester says

By Chien Hui-ju, Jonathan Chin and William Hetherington  /  Staff reporter, with staff writers

Civil Human Rights Front convener Jimmy Sham speaks at a protest against a controversial extradition bill in Hong Kong on Wednesday last week.

Photo: Bloomberg

Taiwanese should see Hong Kong as a reminder to never back down on the principles of democracy, rights and freedom, Hong Kong-based Civil Human Rights Front convener Jimmy Sham (岑子杰) said.

The group was one of the main organizers of protests against a Hong Kong extradition bill. The demonstrations over the past week saw hundreds of thousands of Hong Kongers take to the streets, leading to clashes with riot police, who fired bean-bag rounds and tear gas.

Although Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥) on Saturday reversed course by “indefinitely” shelving the Beijing-backed legislation, protesters returned to demand her resignation and permanent revocation of the bill, while condemning police brutality.

Lam’s remarks made it clear that she would not withdraw the bill or step down; that the Hong Kong government would continue to refer to the protest movement as riots; and that Beijing and pro-Beijing politicians in Hong Kong were to be thanked, Sham said in an interview with the Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper).

Those statements and Lam’s praise for the police crackdown are “not acceptable” to Hong Kongers, who continue to demand that the proposed bill be withdrawn altogether, Sham said, adding that it was a “knife” that had been plunged into the territory.

“Lam is only saying she is not thrusting in the knife now, but she could resume doing so in a few months’ time,” he said. “The refusal to withdraw the bill shows there is no intention to remove the knife.”

“We have learned, 22 years after the territory’s handover, that China will never let up its pressure on Hong Kong,” he said.

Hong Kong’s “one country, two systems” is close to being completely replaced by “one country, one system,” he said, adding that activists are fighting for the “last remainder” of Hong Kong’s rule of law and democracy, which “separates us from the mainland.”

With its majority in the Hong Kong Legislative Council, the pro-Beijing faction is in a position to ram the bill through, making the pro-democracy protests vital to preventing its passage, Sham said.

“Social movements have to be organized on the community level and although there were 1.03 million people on the streets last time, we will continue to organize,” he said.

Asked how the movement could maintain its impetus against the Hong Kong government’s delaying tactics, Sham said that protesters must deal with the challenges presented by the pro-Beijing camp.

The speed with which the number of marchers increased on June 9 and on Sunday meant that there was no time to put in place proper organization mechanisms on the community level, he said.

Pro-Beijing district councilors, who have a hold on communities in Hong Kong, launched a smear campaign saying that protesters were using violence, he said.

Better organization would inform people over how events unfolded, which would empower people to resist pressure from the government, Sham said.

What saddened him most was that Lam said in a press statement that protesters were using lethal weapons, but police were only using non-lethal rubber bullets and bean-bag rounds, he said.

This made it seem like the protesters had more advanced weapons than the police, which was an outright lie, he said.

Police were firing on peaceful protesters and using tear gas without warning, despite marchers having applied to assemble, he said.

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