As tensions are simmering, thousands of Hong Kong’s greying population on Wednesday, July 17, took to the streets to rally against the extradition bill, in solidarity with young protesters.
Organizers said some 8,000 silver-haired senior citizens, including a well-known actress, and others in wheelchairs, participated in the march that finished outside the Admiralty government headquarters.
This elders march is really rather large, at least several thousands. Chanting 香港人加油 (Go HKers!) and also notably 我要真普選 (I want genuine universal suffrage) pic.twitter.com/izh1YgdOIw
— Antony Dapiran (@antd) July 17, 2019
For the first time, Hong Kong’s seniors openly displayed their support for the young people who were in the forefront of a over month-long protests against a controversial extradition bill that would significantly weaken Hong Kong’s independent legal system.
Speaking in Cantonese, 67-year-old march organizer Kana Yeung said that after the July 1 clash at the Legislative Council building, there were criticisms and misunderstandings that prompted the elders to step forward to help clear the misconceptions.
The young people are handing out crackers and water to the elderly folks marching. In return elders are telling the young folks to stay safe. pic.twitter.com/qAt6gfA365
— Antony Dapiran (@antd) July 17, 2019
The sliver-haired Yeung said, “We want to organize this march to show our support for them.”
She continued saying that it is important because the Hong Kong young people have contributed a lot to the society. They are doing “something that we are not able to do or dare not do” before, said Yeung.
Another elderly citizen, a 75-year-old man nicknamed “Little Wong,” joined the rally with his 95-year-old friend called “Big Wong.”
“We, the silver-haired citizens should show our support to the young generation to fight for their future, to fight for the future direction of our society,” said Little Wong.
The elderly protesters carried posters in Chinese character reading ‘Support Youth to Protect Hong Kong.’
“We don’t want them to feel suppressed,” continued Little Wong. “We need to come out to show our real support for the youth,” he said.
Wearing white tops and black pants, the seniors condemned alleged police brutality in the recent Sunday rally at Hong Kong’s Sha Tin district. Dozens of people were injured and over 40 people detained after scuffles between police and protesters erupted in a shopping mall.
Hong Kong-based lawyer Antony Dapiran offers his understanding of the situation. “The protesters’ demands have evolved over the course of the movement over the last month or so,” said Dapiran who stated that in the beginning the protesters’ demand was just focused on the extradition law itself.
In the aftermath of clashes with police, demands, such as an independent inquiry of police behavior and that the protests to be not considered as riots were included in the protest demands.
Then the demands extended to include “a greater degree of universal suffrage or a greater degree of democracy in Hong Kong,” said Dapiran.
Dapiran, who is author of “City of Protest: A Recent History of Dissent in Hong Kong,” said that the protesters are concerned over the gradual loss of Hong Kong’s unique identity.
— Antony Dapiran (@antd) July 1, 2017
According to Dapiran, anxiety about Beijing’s rule over Hong Kong and the proposed extradition law have been the underlying reasons for the protests, as well as the Hong Kong people’s mistrust of the mainland Chinese communist judicial system.
“More broadly I think, people are concerned about the loss of the unique Hong Kong identity,” said Dapiran.
This is not surprising as Hong Kong, a former British colony, was returned to mainland communist China in 1997.
The proposed extradition bill has awakened deeper concerns that the mainland Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is slowing diminishing the civil rights guaranteed to Hong Kong for 50 years under a “one country, “one country, two systems” political structure.
This proposed bill would allow or expose individuals in Hong Kong—citizens, foreigners, and even tourists—to be extradited to China and face prosecution by an authoritarian communist regime.
As United States Sen. Patrick Toomey said, in this speech, that mainland China “does not uphold the rule of law, nor does it practice a fair and impartial administration of justice.”
The people of Hong Kong, young and old, from all walks of life, are rightly concerned that if this bill were to become law, it could “even pave the way for Chinese state-sponsored kidnapping of dissidents,” said Toomey.