Hong Kong protest leaders opposed to the administration of chief executive Carrie Lam have said they will continue their demonstrations, even after Ms Lam said the highly contentious extradition bill which first sparked the protests was “dead.”
Protesters are demanding the bill be formally withdrawn and an investigation opened into heavy-handed tactics used by police against demonstrators. Hundreds of thousands have joined the protests, expressing growing concerns about the steady erosion of civil rights in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.
“We cannot find the word `dead’ in any of the laws in Hong Kong or in any legal proceedings in the Legislative Council,” protest leaders Jimmy Sham and Bonnie Leung said.
“So how can the government tell us that we should preserve our rule of law, when (Lam) herself does not use the principle of the rule of law.”
The protest leaders also said Ms Lam was being hypocritical in claiming to have met demonstrators’ demands without actually speaking to them directly.
“The young protesters have been out in the street outside her house, outside government headquarters, for weeks, roaring to be heard,” Leung said.
Ms Lam acknowledged there were “lingering doubts about the government’s sincerity or worries about whether it would seek to bring the legislation back for a vote.” But she said: “I reiterate here, there is no such plan. The bill is dead.”
The proposed extradition legislation has highlighted fears that Hong Kong is losing freedoms guaranteed to it when the former British colony was returned to China in 1997.
The legislation would allow criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China. Critics fear suspects would face unfair and politicised trials. The most recent protest on Sunday saw tens of thousands of people, chanting “Free Hong Kong” march toward a high-speed railway station that connects Hong Kong to the Chinese mainland.
They said they wanted to carry their protest message to those on the mainland, where state-run media have focused on clashes with police and property damage. On 1 July, the 22nd anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to China, a peaceful march drew hundreds of thousands of people but was overshadowed by an assault on the territory’s legislative building.
Protesters are demanding an independent investigation into alleged police abuse of force on 12 June, when officers used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse crowds blocking major streets. Ms Lam said that investigation would take place under the Department of Justice.