Thousands converge on Hong Kong police headquarters in fresh anti-government protests

Thousands converge on Hong Kong police headquarters in fresh anti-government protests

Hong Kong protest blocking roads 2
Protesters occupy a main road outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong on Jun 21, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Hector Retamal) 

HONG KONG: Thousands of black-clad protesters converged on Hong Kong's police headquarters on Friday (Jun 21), in latest demonstrations demanding the resignation of its pro-Beijing leader over an extradition proposal that has sparked its biggest political crisis in decades.

Groups of mostly students wearing hard hats, goggles and face masks set up roadblocks and trapped vehicles in a generally peaceful protest to demand that leader Carrie Lam, who promoted and then postponed the Bill, scrap it altogether.

The latest protest comes after the government refused to meet the demands of demonstrators who have marched in their millions to oppose the Bill that would allow extraditions to the Chinese mainland.

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

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

"Having people here is giving pressure to the government that we don't agree with your extradition plans," said student Edison Ng, who was protesting in sweltering heat of about 32 degrees Celsius.

"It is not clear how long we will stay ... To go or not to go, (the) people will decide," he added.

Hong Kong protest blocking roads 1
Protesters occupy a main road outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong on Jun 21, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Anthony Wallace) 

The protests, which pose the greatest popular challenge to Chinese President Xi Jinping since he took power in 2012, once again forced the temporary closure of Hong Kong government offices over security concerns.

After meeting at Hong Kong's main government complex before rush hour, hundreds of protesters temporarily blocked a major city artery. 

Roads that would normally be jammed with traffic near the heart of the former British colony were empty, with demonstrators reinforcing roadblocks with metal barriers.

Demonstrators rest outside the Legislative Council building during a demonstration demanding Hong K
Demonstrators rest outside the Legislative Council building during a demonstration demanding Hong Kong’s leaders to step down and withdraw the extradition bill, in Hong Kong, China Jun 21, 2019. (Photo: Reuters/Tyrone Siu)

Protesters, who have been largely leaderless during the rallies, then marched in the searing heat to the police headquarters, many chanting "release the righteous" and "shame on police thugs" - references to those detained during violence last week between demonstrators and the police.

"Never surrender" also echoed through the streets as protesters chanted near police headquarters, calling on police chief Stephen Lo to step down.

Police had warned activists through loud hailers not to charge.

Opposition groups have demanded an investigation into allegations of police brutality and the release of those detained during the clashes, in addition to Lam's ouster and a cancellation of the extradition bill.

Earlier, some protesters removed metal barricades and re-arranged them in an apparent bid to fortify their positions outside the police headquarters, as officials closed the gate to the facility's main driveway.

"There (is) ... a large crowd surrounding the police headquarters which ... (can) affect police emergency services to the public," senior superintendent Yu Hoi Kwan told reporters, appealing to the crowd to disperse.

She said a negotiating team would be sent to speak with the protesters.

Hong Kong protest blocking roads 3
Protesters occupy a main road outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong on Jun 21, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Anthony Wallace) 

A small group of demonstrators hurled eggs at police outside the headquarters to protest against police violence. 

Amnesty International in a statement on Friday said that evidence of unlawful use of force by police during the Jun 12 protest was "irrefutable".

Hong Kong protesters demonstrate in Wan Chai area
Protesters in Hong Kong's Wan Chai area on Jun 21, 2019. (Photo: CNA reader)

On Friday night, hundreds remained outside government buildings with the majority sitting peacefully and spraying each other with water to keep cool. 

Nearby, a large group sang Sing Hallelujah To The Lord, which has emerged as the unlikely anthem of the protests.

"The government still hasn't responded to our demands, After so many days ... they are all talking rubbish," protester Poyee Chan, 28, told AFP.

"So I feel we need to come out and tell them: we citizens won't accept such fake responses."

Hong Kong protesters carrying umbrella on Jun 21 protest
Protesters gather outside the police headquarters in Hong Kong on Jun 21, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Anthony Wallace) 

"BLOSSOM EVERYWHERE"

The call for Friday's protest was made by the city's student unions, as well as informal organisers over social media and messaging apps like Telegram.

"Blossom everywhere," read a statement circulated Thursday in a Telegram chat group.

"There are many ways to participate. Think carefully about your own ways to show your love to Hong Kong. Jun 21 is not the end of the fight, there will be more in the coming days."

The groups had also recommended a mass strike, but it was not immediately clear which business or professional groups would support such a call.

Lam has so far defied calls to step down, and while she has apologised and suspended the Bill indefinitely, it has failed to quell anger.

Administrative offices at the complex were closed on Friday "due to security considerations".

Demonstrators rest outside the Legislative Council building during a demonstration demanding Hong K
Demonstrators rest outside the Legislative Council building during a demonstration demanding Hong Kong’s leaders to step down and withdraw the extradition bill, in Hong Kong, China Jun 21, 2019. (Photo: Reuters/Tyrone Siu)

Although Hong Kong was returned from British to Chinese rule in 1997, it is still administered separately under an arrangement known as "One country, two systems".

The city enjoys freedoms unseen on the mainland but many residents have been alarmed in recent years by what they feel is a tighter grip by Beijing.

"SINCERE AND HUMBLE ATTITUDE"

Opponents of the extradition Bill fear it will ensnare the people of Hong Kong in mainland China's opaque and politicised justice system, and also give Beijing a tool to target its critics based in the semi-autonomous territory.

The turmoil in Hong Kong has also raised questions over Lam's ability to govern, two years after she was selected and pledged to "unite and move forward".

Justice Secretary Teresa Cheng became the latest government minister to apologise over the Bill.

Hong Kong protesters setting up baricades on Jun 21
Protesters set up a barricade outside the police headquarters in Hong Kong on Jun 21, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Hector Retamal) 

"Regarding the controversies and disputes in society arising from the strife in the past few months, being a team member of the government, I offer my sincere apology to all people of Hong Kong," Cheng wrote in her blog.

"We promise to adopt a most sincere and humble attitude to accept criticisms and make improvements in serving the public."

While Lam admitted shortcomings over the Bill and said she had heard the people "loud and clear", she has rejected repeated calls to step down.

Concerns over the Bill spread quickly, from democratic and human rights groups to the wider Hong Kong community, including pro-establishment business figures, some usually loath to contradict the government. Some Hong Kong tycoons have started moving personal wealth offshore.

Hong Kong demonstration Jun 21
People sit outside the Legislative Council Complex in support of demonstrators, who opposed the controversial extradition law, in Hong Kong on Jun 20, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Hector Retamal) 

Hong Kong's Bar Association said in a statement that it was asking the government to withdraw the extradition Bill and make a commitment that any legislation would not proceed without having a full and open consultation.

The Chinese government had supported the extradition proposal, and accused protest organisers of colluding with Western governments. It dismissed expressions of support for the Hong Kong opposition as interference in the city - and China's - internal affairs.

But Beijing said after the Bill's suspension that it respected and understood the decision.

HK protests map

SUPPORT FROM TAIWAN

One activist who joined protesters outside government offices early on Friday read a letter of support from a Taiwan student.

"Brave HKers, perhaps when faced with adversity, we are all fragile and small, but please do not give up defending everything that you love," the protester read through a loud hailer to applause.

Beijing has never renounced the use of force to take over self-ruled Taiwan, which it regards as a recalcitrant, breakaway province. Many have waved Taiwan flags at recent demonstrations in Hong Kong, images certain to rile authorities in Beijing.

Taiwan, overwhelmingly opposed to a "one country, two systems" formula for itself, has voiced support for Hong Kong.

Source: AFP/ad/na

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