Hong Kong Chief Execitive Carrie Lam has said the SAR government and lawmakers have to “learn a lesson” on Tuesday, as the city marks one year since an estimated one million-strong march that took place in opposition to a now-axed extradition bill.
At a press conference before the Executive Council meeting, Lam responded to reporters’ question over whether she regretted and had reflected upon her decision to press on with the bill’s legislative process despite major opposition a year ago.
Last June 9, the Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF) organised a demonstration which they said saw a turnout of over one million. Demonstrators filled the streets to demand Lam’s administration scrap what they saw as an “evil bill,” citing concerns over being extradited to China, which has a different judicial system to Hong Kong. They also urged Lam to step down.
The government refused to yield, announcing hours after the protest that the bill would carry on with its second reading. The move added fuel to what became the start of Hong Kong’s biggest political crisis in decades. Months of large-scale protests morphed into a wider pro-democracy moment as police-protester skirmishes turned violent.
Reflecting on the citywide unrest over the last year, together with the economic challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic in recent months, Lam said the “common aspiration” for many Hongkongers is to have a “stable, peaceful” environment to live a normal life.
“Everyone has to learn a lesson. The SAR government has to learn a lesson, I hope each and every lawmaker will learn a lesson too,” Lam said. “Hong Kong cannot bear such chaos. Hong Kong citizens want to live and work a stable, peaceful environment, especially in the face of the global economic recession triggered by the epidemic.”
The CHRF said the record-breaking turnout at last year’s June 9 march symbolised a “powerful resurgence” of social movements in Hong Kong following the “doldrums ” in the wake of the 2014 Umbrella Movement. The group said that, while the bill was eventually suspended and later withdrawn, the “psychological injuries” suffered by protesters were “very heavy.”
“The mass protest on 9 June last year had been etched in the collective memory of Hongkongers. It also marks the beginning of our togetherness in defending our beloved city,” the group wrote on Facebook on Tuesday.
The group called on Hongkongers to stay united and remain hopeful in light of the impending national security legislation, set to be promulgated by Beijing to punish secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign interference.
“Hongkongers and supporters of Hong Kong’s democracy and liberty around the world are deeply worried and frustrated about such a law. Yet, we have seen miracle after miracle coming out of our tireless efforts in the past year,” the CHRF said, adding that it will file an application to organise the annual July 1 mass rally.
During lunchtime on Tuesday, crowds gathered in shopping malls in seven districts across Hong Kong to take part in a “lunch with you protest” to remember the one-year anniversary of the June 9 demonstration.
At Landmark Atrium in Central, around 100 people showed up at the luxury mall to chant slogans and sing protest songs.
A banner held by one participant read: “From add oil to build a nation, Hongkongers have been through a long year. I’m frustrated, but I don’t want to give up.”
A Form Three student surnamed Lee held a sign that read “Young lives matter,” as he told reporters that last year’s June 9 march was his “political awakening.”
The 14-year-old said he had taken part in numerous peaceful protests over the past year and did not feel pessimistic about the future of the movement.
“As long as we persist, one day we will succeed in fighting for [our demands],” he said, adding that he hopes the Chinese Communist Party will “let go” and “give freedom back” to Hongkongers.
Some have called on people to join a demonstration on Tuesday evening to mark the march anniversary. It is set to take place on Hong Kong Island, but details will only be announced later, according to Telegram channels. The police have, in turn, warned citizens not to partake in unlawful assemblies.