Thousands have attended a rally organised by civil servants on Friday urging the government to listen to public demands.
Chater Garden was full by 6:45pm, prompting police to open the nearby Chater Road to accommodate the masses. Many others resorted to watching livestreams on nearby streets, with organisers saying 40,000 were in attendance.
Cheung Ka-po, an officer at the Transport Department who applied for the rally, said civil servants will continue to work with Hong Kong people. “When we take off our badges, our uniforms, we are all Hongkongers,” he said.
Former chief secretary Anson Chan was invited to speak at the rally. She said attendees were brave to come out in defiance of government warnings. Civil servants, who are meant to be politically neutral, were warned that they face punishment for disloyalty.
“I admire your spirit,” Chan said.
She said that, according to a recent survey, 80 per cent of respondents wanted an independent commission of inquiry to look into the recent anti-extradition law protests.
“Without the truth, we cannot move on,” she said.
Distrust in society
Mr Tong, a mid-level civil servant who has been working inside the government for two years, said it was high time for Hong Kong people to unite amid the level of distrust of the government and the police in society.
“Hongkongers, keep going.” – the scene in Central, where thosuands are gathered at a #HongKong civil servants’ rally urging the government to listen to public demands. https://t.co/zqMKtxI0nq @krislc pic.twitter.com/brEg0U0zII
— Hong Kong Free Press (@HongKongFP) August 2, 2019
“The Chinese government often says there are foreign forces behind us, but this is not the case. Many of us are coming out for our own next generation,” he said.
Whilst the rally was hosted for civil servants, many participants did not work for the government, but came out in solidarity.
Ms Choi, who works in the entertainment sector, held a banner reading “let’s go on strike together” ahead of labour action planned for Monday.
She told HKFP that her parents came to Chater Garden several hours early in support of civil servants. “They said: civil servants are those who serve us, and society, but now they are under the threat by the government. We must protect those who are a bridge between us and the government,” she said.
Ms Yeung, who works in trading, chanted “civil servants go on strike” during the rally.
She said she specifically came to support civil servants amid the looming calls for a general strike: “I will go on strike myself and I hope others to do so,” she said.
The rally is part of a series of actions planned for the weekend, including a rally for medical professionals at Edinburgh Place in Central earlier on Friday, a rally in Mong Kok on Saturday, and two marches in Tseung Kwan O and Western district on Hong Kong Island on Sunday.
The extradition bill would allow the city to handle case-by-case fugitive transfers to jurisdictions with no prior arrangements including China, which lacks human rights protections. Chief Executive Carrie Lam has declared the bill “dead,” but did not enact any mechanism to withdraw it.
Hong Kong protesters have made five demands during weeks of demonstrations. The demands include a complete withdrawal of the now-suspended bill, a retraction of the “riot” characterisation of the June 12 protests, an independent investigation into police behaviour and an unconditional release of all arrested protesters. They also called for a disbanding of the legislature and implementation of universal suffrage.
On July 21, a group of unknown men in white attacked people at the Yuen Long MTR station with bamboo sticks and metal bars, among other weapons, injuring 45 people. At least twelve have since been arrested, including some with triad backgrounds. The police were accused of acting too slowly, despite having knowledge of a potential attack beforehand. Hong Kong’s anti-graft agency has proactively launched an investigation to examine whether the incident involved any misconduct by the police.
Friday’s rally call came after hundreds of civil servants signed petitions to urge the government to listen to the public.
The Hong Kong government has said that civil servants must serve the chief executive and the government with total loyalty, adding that they will follow up on any violations.
The government said any acts to undermine the principle of political neutrality among civil servants are totally unacceptable, and it could give an incorrect impression that civil servants are unable to discharge their duties in an impartial manner.
But Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung had said that it is not problematic if civil servants appear at events in the capacity of residents when they are off-duty.