Hong Kong mass rally against extradition Bill will go ahead on Sunday: Organisers

Hong Kong mass rally against extradition Bill will go ahead on Sunday: Organisers

hong kong protests Jun 14, 2019
Hundreds of mothers protest against the amendments to the extradition law in Hong Kong on Jun 14, 2019. (Photo: AP/Vincent Yu)

HONG KONG: Hong Kong protest leaders on Saturday (Jun 15) said they would press ahead with a planned rally on Sunday despite the government suspending a proposed extradition Bill, saying only a full withdrawal of the divisive law would satisfy them.

READ: Hong Kong backs down on proposed extradition law after massive protests

READ: Beijing supports Hong Kong's move to delay extradition Bill, condemns violent acts

"We need to tell the government that the Hong Kong people will persist and will not discontinue our protest towards the government unless we see the withdrawal of the Bill," Jimmy Sham, from the Civil Human Rights Front, told reporters.

On Sunday afternoon, protesters will march from a park on the main island to the city's parliament - a repeat of a massive rally a week earlier in which organisers said more than a million people turned out.

 

Hong Kong was rocked by the worst political violence since its 1997 handover to China on Wednesday as tens of thousands of protesters were dispersed by riot police firing tear gas and rubber bullets.

Those clashes came three days after Lam refused to be budged by a record-breaking rally in which organisers said more than a million people marched through the streets calling for the Bill to be scrapped.

After days of mounting pressure - including from her own allies - Lam relented on Saturday, announcing that work on the bill would be halted.

She set no deadline for its reintroduction but stopped short of saying it was permanently scrapped.

Sham likened that offer to a "knife" that had been plunged into the city.

"It's almost reached our heart. Now the government said they won't push it, but they also refuse to pull it out," he told reporters. 

RARE CONCESSION 

Lam's about-turn was a rare concession from the city's leaders who have successfully faced down demands from pro-democracy demonstrators in recent years.

But anger over how police and city leaders treated demonstrators is still simmering and opponents hope another huge turnout will pile pressure on Lam.

READ: Violence breaks out as police try to clear Hong Kong protesters

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam backtracked after a major public backlash
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam backtracked after a major public backlash. (Photo: AFP/Hector Retamal) 

The chief executive - who is appointed by a committee stacked with Beijing loyalists - said she had no plans to resign. She defended the need to overhaul the city's extradition laws and said she retained the support of China's central government.

But she admitted her team had misjudged the public mood.

"I feel deep sorrow and regret that the deficiencies in our work and various other factors have stirred up substantial controversies and disputes in society following the relatively calm periods of the past two years," she said.

The unprecedented chaos in Hong Kong comes at a sensitive time for China, already on edge over the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square incident.

"We support, respect and understand this decision," foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in a statement.

TEMPORARY TRUCE 

Hong Kong stocks are sharply down on uncertainty as tens of thousands of poeple block key roads in
Hong Kong stocks are sharply down on uncertainty as tens of thousands of people block key roads in protest over government plans for a controversial extradition law. (Photo: AFP/Anthony Wallace)

Jason Ng, from the Progressive Lawyers Group, said protesters were incensed by Lam's refusal "to take responsibility for the excessive police force unleashed on protesters and for tearing society asunder".

"This is unlikely to mollify civil society and we are expecting another big turnout at the march tomorrow," he told AFP on Saturday.

Opposition to the Beijing-backed bill united an unusually wide cross-section of Hong Kong from influential legal and business bodies, to religious leaders, western nations and the huge crowds hitting the streets.

READ: In full: Carrie Lam's speech as Hong Kong's controversial extradition Bill is suspended

SLIDING FREEDOMS 

But the furore was also the latest expression of public anger over fears that an increasingly assertive Beijing is stamping down on the city's freedoms and unique culture.

Under a 1997 deal signed with Britain, China allowed Hong Kong to keep key liberties for 50 years.

Critics accuse Beijing of reneging on that deal with the complicity of the city's unelected leaders.

They point to the huge 2014 pro-democracy "Umbrella Movement" that failed to win any concessions, the imprisonment of protest leaders and the banning of some critics from standing for election, as recent examples.

The writing on the wall began to emerge for Lam on Friday when she found herself facing growing calls from within her own political camp to reverse course and tamp down spiralling public anger, including from hardline pro-Beijing lawmakers.

Beijing had vocally supported the Bill and earlier this week threw its full support behind the Lam administration, calling protesters "rioters".

But it has since sought to distance itself, with China's envoy to Britain saying the idea for the Bill came entirely from Hong Kong.

Source: AFP/ad

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