On the Ground at Hong Kong’s Weekend Extradition Bill Protests
Hundreds of thousands of protesters massed in a sea of black as they marched through Hong Kong the day after leader Carrie Lam suspended a controversial extradition bill, calling on her to withdraw the legislation completely and resign. #HongKong #ExtraditionBill #CarrieLam
Sunday’s crowds were significantly bigger than last week’s, with almost 2 million people taking part in the demonstrations, according to organizers, who said the side streets had been overflowing during the day. Last week they said the crowd hit 1 million, while police said 240,000 had taken to the streets.
The swollen crowds seemed strong proof that Hong Kong was in no mood for the half-measures its government, and thus mainland China itself, was prepared to offer. Members of the crowd complained that suspension was not enough — and the protests were shaping into the biggest protest since Hong Kong was handed to back to China from Britain in 1997.
It also raised the question of how the authorities would now respond, politically and on the streets.
“I have never seen such a big crowd,” said Bonnie Leung, a leader of the protest organizers.
Faced with such opposition, Lam issued a formal apology on Sunday night. A government statement said she “pledged to adopt a most sincere and humble attitude to accept criticisms and make improvements in serving the public.”
Already, her decision to suspend the bill was considered, compared to the harder line normally adopted by her backers in China, as extraordinary. But protesters noted that her apology did not go much further in substance – leaving open the options of fully killing the measure or her resigning.
“My resentment has been pent-up,” opposition lawmaker Claudia Mo, who has been vocal throughout the protests, said in an interview. “The suspension is just a postponement. The plan is just being delayed. It’s not the matter of what, it’s a matter of when. So I am coming out.”
Lam “has completely lost any credibility among Hong Kong people,” Mo said. “She must go.”
Demonstrators clad in black chanted and carried homemade signs as they stretched for three miles from Admiralty to North Point, spilling out of the official route and choking major thoroughfares as they brought the city’s financial center to a standstill.
They sang out the protests’ unofficial anthems, ‘‘Sing Hallelujah to the Lord’’ and “Do You Hear the People Sing,” from “Les Miserables,” a musical itself about people who have taken to the streets to protest against tyranny.
Savana Ho, a 25-year-old student, cried as she sang. “Hong Kong people are running out of ways and ideas to save their city,” she said, explaining why she had come out to march. “The government is forcing citizens to just make any effort we can.”
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