In Hong Kong, further large-scale protests are expected to continue over the coming weekend, with hundreds of thousands of demonstrators taking to the streets to oppose a proposed extradition law between Hong Kong and mainland China.
Protesters are demanding that legislators abandon the extradition bill. Thus far, the president of Hong Kong’s Legislature has agreed to delay formal review of the bill at least through Saturday. Other members of Hong Kong’s Legislature have expressed concern that the city has become too unstable to move the bill forward.
The protests began on Sunday, June 9, when as many as 1 million demonstrators filled the streets to express outrage over the proposed bill that would expand the Chinese communist regime’s ability to capture and extradite criminal suspects from Hong Kong. Many in Hong Kong fear that this law could be used as a political weapon and target anyone whom China’s Communist Party views as an opponent, including democracy supporters, journalists, and human rights critics, among others.
Police in riot gear confronted protesters on Wednesday with tear gas and rubber bullets, also using water cannons at various times, in order to disperse crowds. Hong Kong’s chief of police had declared the protests a “riot situation” early on Wednesday, in preparation for violence.
On Thursday, Hong Kong authorities reported that at least 81 people were being treated for injuries at local hospitals. Two remained in serious condition on Friday.
Amnesty International, a well-known independent human rights organization, issued a statement, late on Wednesday, condemning the police violence. Man-kei Tam, director of Amnesty International’s Hong Kong office, wrote, “The ugly scenes of police using tear gas and pepper spray against the overwhelmingly peaceful protesters is a violation of international law. Police have a duty to maintain public order, but in doing so they may use force only when strictly necessary.”
Human Rights Watch, another global human rights organization, described police actions as “unnecessary and excessive force.”
A reporter from the South China Morning Post indicated Thursday that police may be helping to conceal the number of protesters who have been hurt or injured by seeking them out and detaining them. South China Morning Post reported late Thursday, that four people, including a teacher from a well-known Hong Kong parochial school, were arrested at two separate hospitals where they were receiving treatment. All four were charged with “rioting,” and all were expected to be released on bail.
Most government offices remained closed through Friday. Police continue to maintain tight security around the Hong Kong’s Legislative Council buildings, where demonstrations blocked legislators from gathering to review and debate the extradition bill.
Hong Kong Election Committee members ask Carrie Lam to step down as chief executive
On Wednesday evening, 200 members of Hong Kong’s Election Committee, the group that anoints the Special Administrative Region’s chief executive, published an open letter asking Chief Executive Carrie Lam to step down.
“We believe that Carrie Lam has lost political legitimacy and must step down,” the letter states. “A new chief executive should be elected instead.” Former Hong Kong government members have also begun to speak out criticizing Lam.
Lam assumed her role as executive of China’s Special Administrative Region in June 2017, after her approval by members of China’s Communist Party Politburo. While she has been quick to point out that she is not a “puppet of Beijing,” Lam ultimately reports to Party Secretary Xi Jinping.
Her unwillingness to withdraw the controversial extradition bill, despite the unprecedented protests, has cast doubt as to where her loyalty lies. In a recent TV interview, Lam compared Hong Kong’s democracy demonstrators to “unruly children” who need to be disciplined.