Organisers of Sunday’s demonstration against the Hong Kong government’s extradition law proposal have said that there may be an escalation in protests next month.
Figo Chan, deputy convenor of the Civil Human Rights Front, said the group will call on the public to surround the Legislative Council if the proposal is not withdrawn. Details would be released in mid-May, he said.
On Monday, pro-democracy politicians capitalised on the large protest turnout, saying that opposition to the law was growing.
“We held the first march a month ago. It is a large growth, from 12,000 people to 130,000, and I think the public’s concern has increased because of the discussions over the past month,” Civic Party leader Alvin Yeung said on RTHK.
“After the [2014 Umbrella Movement]… the public generally felt apathetic or powerless towards political movements. So those in power should pay attention to the fact that there were so many attendees this time.”
Even by police figures, the protest on Sunday had a peak turnout of 22,800 – more than four times that of the march a month ago. It would also make Sunday the largest street protest since Chief Executive Carrie Lam took office in July 2017, and one of the biggest rallies since the 2014 pro-democracy Umbrella Movement.
Activist Joshua Wong said that he was inspired by protesters who cheered on one another. “Welcome to all of our returning brothers and sisters,” he wrote on Facebook. “Let everyone who marched today cherish the memory.”
Meanwhile, Bookseller Lam Wing-kee, who fled to Taiwan on Friday, said he was pleased with the protest turnout. Asked on a radio programme whether he timed his Taiwan move to boost attendance on Sunday, Lam dismissed the allegation and said he originally planned to relocate in mid-April but his papers were delayed.
Lam was among five booksellers who published political gossip titles about China’s political elite. All went missing four years ago, only to re-emerge months later “confessing” to crimes on Chinese state TV.
Lam also conceded that he was wrong about localist Lee Sin-yi, who allegedly fled to Taiwan to avoid a trial in relation to the 2016 Mong Kok unrest. Lam said in 2017 that Lee should return to Hong Kong since the local courts could be trusted to be fair – a comment that netizens drew attention to last week.
“Of course I need to be responsible, I was wrong. I believed the courts were fair, but I can’t see it in these two years,” he told Apple Daily.
‘Misunderstood the law’
Pro-Beijing figures on Monday said the government should not back down, despite the unexpectedly high turnout. New People’s Party leader and ex-Hong Kong security chief Regina Ip said that the opposition camp was trying to create “another Article 23 incident” – referring to the massive street protests in 2003 that forced the government to shelve its controversial national security law.
“Unless you’re a fugitive, there is no need for worry,” Ip said, saying that some people had misunderstood the law.
Ip added that some people had irrational fears about China: “Once there is a connection [between Hong Kong and China], and there is a possibility of people being transferred, that hits a nerve.”
Pro-establishment lawyer and executive councillor Ronny Tong agreed that the government should not back down.
“The voices opposing the amendment are just political slogans… they don’t understand what a fugitive transfer is, and all of their concerns have already been addressed by the bill,” Tong said. “An unpersuasive public opinion cannot be treated as representative.”
The Hong Kong government said in a statement that it remained committed to the bill, which is currently being deliberated in the legislature.
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