Asia

Hong Kong braces for strikes following record protest turnout

HONG KONG – Following a record two million turnout at a Hong Kong rally on Sunday (June 16)  protesting a divisive extradition Bill that prompted an apology from embattled Chief Executive Carrie Lam, the city is bracing itself for more strikes today (June 17).

Over two consecutive weekends, millions took to the streets calling on the government to scrap the Bill; it’s tabling was indefinitely postponed on Saturday but many fear it could be reintroduced after public pressure has eased.  

Building on the momentum, protest organiser the Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF) has called on Hong Kongers to go on strike on Monday in a bid to pressure the territory’s government to meet their demands.

“Should the government refuse to respond, only more Hong Kongers will strike tomorrow; citizens will take to the street, until their voices are heard,” said CHRF in a statement late on Sunday.

It did not specify how many strikers it was expecting.

Chief on the CHRF’s list of demands are a complete withdrawal of the extradition Bill, rescinding the characterisation of protesters as rioters, and Mrs Lam’s resignation.

Mrs Lam in particular has faced strong criticism for her handling of the crisis and has been accused by protesters of being arrogant, ignorant of the wishes of Hong Kongers and aloof.

She apologised in a statement on Sunday (June 16) evening, promising to adopt a “sincere and humble attitude” when serving the people.

The police have also been criticised for their heavy-handed tactics during a June 9 mass protest, which descended into violent clashes, and again last Wednesday (June 12), during which rubber bullets and tear gas were used against demonstrators.

Hundreds of protesters had massed around the legislature on Wednesday to prevent lawmakers from entering and debating the Bill.

If enacted, the law would have allowed one-off extraditions with jurisdictions with whom Hong Kong does not have a permanent agreement, including mainland China.

The government said the law was meant to prevent the city from becoming a haven for international fugitives.

But Hong Kongers are worried this is yet another sign of eroding freedom under Beijing, and fear the law could be used on political dissidents or activists.

Under the “one country, two systems” agreement, the city is guaranteed a “high-level autonomy” and has a separate judiciary and Constitution from the mainland. Its residents are also allowed freedoms unseen in the rest of China, including a free press and the right to protesr.

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