Organisers hope half a million protesters or more will join mass rally against HK government’s controversial extradition bill

10-Jun-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:00 AM Print This Post

Organisers drumming up support for a mass rally on Sunday against the government’s extradition bill are hoping up to half a million people or more will join, matching the turnout at an anti-establishment protest in 2003 that led to a previous Hong Kong leader stepping down.

The public’s mood to resist the controversial bill, which would allow the transfer of criminal suspects to mainland China, appeared to be unshaken by two incidents in which police were targeted by petrol bombs on Friday.

Jimmy Sham Tsz-kit, convenor of organiser Civil Human Rights Front, said there was no evidence the two cases were related to the protest and that more than 100 people had volunteered to help supervise the march, which starts in Victoria Park, Causeway Bay.

The rally takes place just three days before the bill gets its second reading in the Legislative Council, after the government bypassed more stringent scrutiny by a committee following chaos in the legislature.

 (South China Morning Post)

(South China Morning Post)

The front, a platform for 50 pro-democracy groups, had earlier forecast 300,000 people would turn out but by Friday morning, Sham had revised that figure, believing 500,000 might take to the streets.

“I can feel the public shares much concern about the bill, and I believe the turnout can rival the July 1 marches in 2003 and 2014,” he told a radio programme.

On July 1, 2003, the sixth anniversary of the city’s handover from Britain to China, an estimated half a million people vented their anger against plans to enact national security legislation in Hong Kong.

Extradition bill: both sides make final appeals ahead of mass rally

The historic event started the tradition of the annual July 1 march and led to then-chief executive Tung Chee-hwa resigning.

In 2014, a similar number of people marched in a protest over electoral reform.

As a person born and bred in Hong Kong, I can’t accept the bill. I can’t sit back and do nothing

Lau Wing-gi, restaurant owner

The extradition bill will allow Hong Kong to send suspects on a case-by-case basis to jurisdictions with which the city does not have an extradition agreement, including the mainland and Taiwan.

They fear Beijing could use the new arrangement to target political opponents or that suspects would be sent to the mainland where they may not receive a fair trial.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has defended the proposed law amendments and said she would not simply follow orders from Beijing on transferring fugitives.

Mobilisation of the masses by social groups for the march continued following a proliferation of more than 500 petitions online, in which hundreds of thousands of people registered their opposition to the bill last week.

Security guards forcibly remove opposition lawmakers occupying Legco

Sham said some people might be intimidated by Friday’s attacks but it was unclear if that was the intention.

“We have been receiving calls from volunteers who said they would help as supervisors on Sunday,” Sham told the Post. “I don’t have an exact number yet but it’s definitely over 100.”

Paramedics from the Red Cross and St John Ambulance Brigade would be present as was normal for the front’s large protests.

“I hope Hong Kong people have confidence in the front’s experience and faith in non-violent protest,” Sham said.

He also called on police to allow protesters more space. “I urge police to be more flexible in opening roads as that will help the march go faster,” Sham said.

Warning of more protests to come against fugitive bill

Gigi Chow Mei-chi, external affairs secretary of Polytechnic University’s student union, said they were not intimidated but preparations would be stepped up to help protect march-goers.

“Our confidence in the march remains unchanged,” said Chow, who expected at least 100 PolyU students to attend.

Lawyers have been lined up to provide legal advice to marchers, Chow said.

Student unions in six of Hong Kong’s eight public universities, including PolyU, hung black banners opposing the bill on Friday morning.

“Student interest in the bill is surprisingly high, which is in stark contrast with the political apathy that has been in place for the past two to three years,” Chow said.

In Tuen Mun and Tsing Yi, two districts in northwest Hong Kong, residents were keen to reserve a seat on free coaches arranged by pro-democracy community officers.

“We will need at least three coaches and calls asking for reservations are growing,” said Wong Tak-yuen of Tuen Mun Community Network.

Big turnout at anti-fugitive bill march could signal end for Lam

Across the city, more than 30 shop owners have decided to suspend business on Sunday to support the march.

Lo Yau Kee or “old pals” restaurant in Central said on its Facebook page a special discount would be provided before the march and then business would be closed for the rest of the day.

“As a person born and bred in Hong Kong, I can’t accept the bill. I can’t sit back and do nothing,” owner Lau Wing-gi posted online.

In Kwun Tong, eyewear shop Pepper Optical echoed the sentiment: “Hong Kong matters more than business.” million-protesters-142011775.html



Category: Hong Kong

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