Pro-Beijing lawmaker Regina Ip has urged anti-extradition law protesters to disperse, in an exclusive interview with HKFP. The comments came as thousands of demonstrators occupied roads stretching from government headquarters in Admiralty to Revenue Tower in Wan Chai.
“I strongly condemn such unlawful action, seriously affecting traffic, disrupting government work, LegCo proceedings – we had to cancel our meetings,” she told HKFP at her office, two blocks away from the protests. “Large numbers of innocent citizens – their life and work [are] being disrupted.”
Student groups had groups vowed to escalate their actions if authorities did not answer to their demands by 5pm on Thursday. Clad in black, and with no group claiming leadership, many demonstrators stayed overnight at the rear of the legislature before they began spilling out onto some of the city’s main thoroughfares on Friday morning, bringing traffic to a halt.
”List of demands from student unions – click to view“
1. The complete withdrawal of the suspended extradition bill.
2. An investigation of the police force for police brutality in relation to the clashes last Wednesday.
3. A retraction of the characterisation of the protest last Wednesday as a “riot.”
4. Release and drop charges against protesters arrested.
“I understand their demands, but I think the government has gone as far as possible to accede to them, making an apology,” Ip said, in reference to apologies made by Chief Executive Carrie Lam and other officials over the past week. “Mrs Lam has done as best as she could and… the postponement – is an effective withdrawal.”
Ip added that protesters should not rely on sheer numbers and the “threat of violence,” calling the tactics “totally unacceptable in a civilised society like Hong Kong.” She urged demonstrators to pursue their requests in a peaceful and lawful manner.
The latest road occupations come after weeks of protest against legal amendments proposed in February to allow the city to handle case-by-case extradition requests from jurisdictions with no prior agreements – notably China. Lawyers, journalists, foreign politicians and businesses have raised concerns over the risk of residents being extradited to the mainland, which lacks human rights protections.
Government headquarters and the legislature have closed for the day, whilst the police presence appears to remain low-key.
Following two huge protests organised by the Civil Human Rights Front, Ip suggested that the government should meet with representatives of the protest groups to discuss their demands.
However, when asked by HKFP if her party would lead the establishment camp in opposing the bill amid the chorus of criticism, Ip said the New People’s Party would not submit to populism: “We’d like to be a party with independent thinking, but not a populist party… we stand by our principles.”
She added that she did not think it was in the city’s interests for Lam to step down.
HKFP’s full interview with Ip will be published next week.
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