Hong Kong’s pan-democratic lawmakers warned the government against any provocative moves on Friday, as protesters continued to swarm around the police headquarters in Wan Chai.
The anti-extradition law demonstrations escalated throughout the day as thousands occupied streets between Admiralty and Wan Chai, demanding the bill be dropped and the police be investigated for alleged misconduct.
The crowds began to occupy roads after the government failed to respond in time to a set of demands from six student unions on Thursday over the proposed legal amendments.
Democratic Party lawmaker Andrew Wan told reporters that he noticed many had stopped asking Chief Executive Carrie Lam to resign because it was an unrealistic demand.
“Their demands are very pragmatic,” Wan said. “I hope Carrie Lam will not allow the pressure in society to continue to rise because she is afraid of losing face.”
The latest acts of civil disobedience come after weeks of protests 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. The occupation roads around the Legislative Council ended in violence last Wednesday after police deployed tear gas and rubber bullets against advancing crowds.
The bill was suspended last Saturday until further notice, following months of criticism. In a statement on Friday, the government urged protesters to remain peaceful, admitting that multiple departments have been affected by the day’s wildcat protests. It said the government had “completely stopped” work on the controversial extradition bill.
It added that the extradition bill will automatically expire in July next year when the legislative term ends. “The government will accept this fact,” the statement said.
‘A dead end’
Pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo said the government should face reality by withdrawing the bill entirely.
“The situation is now at a dead end. Carrie Lam said she has apologised, but she is the one who caused this situation, and she must face it,” she said, adding that authorities had adopted a “tire you out” tactic towards protesters.
“A civilised government should not be adopting this attitude… there is no reason that people cannot see the anger of the young people.”
Crowds continue to swell around #HongKong police HQ, as eggs are thrown at the building. Demonstrators are demanding an investigation into alleged police brutality & for those arrested to be released.
In full: https://t.co/kmLJLFCnSX pic.twitter.com/Y1gP1gpHuF
— Hong Kong Free Press (@HongKongFP) June 21, 2019
Mo said that the protests on Friday were organised by people voluntarily and that the government had instructed the police not to use force as long as protesters are peaceful.
“But how long can this last? The government has been paralysed at the Revenue Tower and the Immigration Tower. What does the government plan to do?” Mo said, adding that the only solution was genuine universal suffrage in Hong Kong.
Amnesty International Hong Kong said on Friday that the NGO had verified 14 incidents of unnecessary and excessive use of force by police against protesters last Wednesday by examining in detail footage of each event.
The rights NGO urged restraint in the policing of upcoming protests, and for officers involved in last week’s unrest to be held to account.
Man-kei Tam, director of Amnesty International Hong Kong, said the evidence of unlawful use of force by police against protesters was irrefutable and placed peaceful protesters in danger of serious injury.
“The Hong Kong authorities should send a clear message that these failures in policing will not be tolerated,” he said. “A thorough, independent and effective investigation needs to take place and any officers found responsible must face justice, at any level of the chain of command.”
In response to the report, Civic Party lawmaker Alvin Yeung said it provided sufficient evidence for the government to initiate an independent inquiry into the misconduct of the police: “If the government is serious about its reputation, then there is no delay in initiating the inquiry,” he said.
Meanwhile, Chinese artist Ai Weiwei recorded a video message in support of the movement.
“It is the most beautiful protest in the world, the most beautiful protest in human history… It proves the education level of Hong Kong people, how they cherish freedom and democracy, and their ability to fight back…” he said.
In a press release on Friday evening, the police said that – with roads obstructed around its Wan Chai headquarters – a total of 49 emergency 999 calls could not be immediately handled as of 7pm. “Police hereby appeal to all to leave the scene as soon as possible…” the statement read.
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