Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥) yesterday ignored a deadline set by some protesters to withdraw an extradition bill that she promoted then postponed, setting the stage for a new wave of demonstrations in the territory.
Lam suspended the bill, which would allow criminal suspects in the former British colony to be extradited to mainland China for trial, but some student groups called on her to axe it altogether, setting the 5pm deadline.
They are also demanding that the government drop all charges against those arrested during last week’s protests, charge police with what they describe as violent action and stop referring to the protests as a riot.
A network of students at universities and higher education institutions was preparing to mobilize today if the deadline was missed, Chinese University of Hong Kong Students Union president So Tsun-fung (蘇浚鋒) said.
So told Agence France Presse (AFP) that the student network would call for people to surround the central government offices and the Legislative Council building at 7am today if the Lam administration did not respond to demands.
“The hope is to apply pressure before civil servants go to work if we have a certain amount of people,” he added.
The bill prompted millions to take to the streets this month, triggering some of the most violent protests in decades as police fired rubber bullets and tear gas and marking the biggest challenge to Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) since he took power in 2012.
Campaigners have registered thousands of new voters during the mass protests, pouncing on an opportunity to bolster the democratic opposition’s prospects in upcoming elections.
Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp needs a strong showing in territory-wide legislative polls next year to recapture a big enough bloc to veto proposals from pro-establishment rivals, who now dominate the 70-seat legislature.
Beijing has said it respects and supports Lam’s decision to suspend the extradition bill, but has been angered by criticism from Western capitals about the legislation.
US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday threw her influence behind bipartisan legislation to require US President Donald Trumps’ administration to certify Beijing is maintaining its special treatment of Hong Kong.
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs hit back again yesterday at what it described as forces trying to destroy Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability.
Lam has stopped short of saying the extradition bill would be withdrawn, stating only that it would not be introduced during her time in office if public concerns persist.
She has apologized for the turmoil the bill has caused, saying she has heard the people “loud and clear,” but rejected calls to resign.
The Civil Human Rights Front, organizer of a protest on Sunday that it said attracted about 2 million people, is gearing up for an annual pro-democracy march on July 1, the 22nd anniversary of the handover.
The group has called on people to turn out in force.
It has said it would support any lawful and peaceful protest by student groups.
The ongoing protests have been largely “leaderless,” with no one group or individual articulating demands or negotiating with authorities on the demonstrators’ behalf.
The minority pro-democracy bloc in the Legislative Council would also back the students and urges them to remain peaceful, Hong Kong legislator Claudia Mo (毛孟靜) told AFP.
“We will stand by any time, anywhere to make sure that there won’t be any repeat of police brutality,” she said, referring to the violence last week.
Additional reporting by AFP
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