A crowd of protesters marches in Hong Kong, part of an anti-government demonstration demanding the withdrawal of proposed legislation that would allow extraditions to mainland China. Hong Kong, June 16, 2019.
Kelly Olsen | CNBC
Crowds of Hong Kong protesters took to the streets Sunday to demand the city’s top official resign a day after she suspended — but did not withdraw — contentious legislation to allow extraditions to China that opponents say must be scrapped entirely.
Citizens, many dressed in black, packed subway carriages as they made their way to participate in the march beginning in the late afternoon in hot, muggy weather and that followed a similar one last Sunday that drew hundreds of thousands. Crowds also lined up to take ferries across famed Victoria Harbor to join the demonstration.
Immediate estimates were not available but huge throngs similar to the week before were seen packing the main protest route and spilling over into adjacent streets. People held signs including ones demanding Chief Executive Carrie Lam resign and denouncing the extradition proposal and alleged police brutality. “Stop killing us,” read one.
Lam had vowed to press ahead with amendments to Hong Kong law to allow extraditions to places with which it has no such arrangements — including mainland China.
But citing injuries to police and protesters in demonstrations that turned violent Wednesday and what Lam called divisions in society engendered by the plan, she announced Saturday that she was putting the legislation on indefinite hold.
Many in the Asian trade and finance center of 7.4 million people opposed the plan as they fear their legal system and freedoms – legacies of the territory’s history as a British colony – would be compromised by closer judicial ties with China.
A mourner lays flowers at the site of a makeshift shrine in Hong Kong near where a man reportedly fell to his death after protesting against a government proposal to allow extraditions to mainland China. Hong Kong, June 16, 2019.
Kelly Olsen | CNBC
Hong Kong was guaranteed a high degree of control over its own affairs for at least 50 years under a “one country, two systems” arrangement when Britain ceded sovereignty to China on July 1, 1997. But local unease over increasing mainland influence has steadily grown since.
Foreign business groups and governments, including the United States, also opposed the extradition plan, stressing concerns that any erosion to Hong Kong’s legal system could make it a less attractive place for banks and companies to operate.
The mood on Sunday was one of anger at Lam but also sorrow after the death of a protester on Saturday after he reportedly fell from the top of a shopping mall where he had unfurled a banner demanding the plan be withdrawn.
Ahead of the protest, hundreds pf people paid their respects at a makeshift memorial set up outside the shopping mall, offering flowers, prayers and incense.
‘Express our voice’
Kelly Wong, who thinks Hong Kong is completely under China’s control, said she felt “angry” at Lam for saying she would listen more to the opinions of citizens but with the aim of eventually passing the bill.
“So I think we should come out and express our voice,” she told CNBC.
Sunday’s demonstration marks a week of anti-government protests that included scenes of violence — especially on Wednesday – that are rare in Hong Kong.
On that day crowds estimated by police at more than 10,000 people surrounded the local legislature to stop debate on the bill.
It was peaceful for most of the day but police later repeatedly fired tear gas and rubber bullets into crowds and some protesters clashed with officers and threw objects at them. Many were angry at the response of law enforcement, though Hong Kong’s police commissioner told reporters that it was appropriate.
Lam had called the scenes an “organized riot,” words that angered many.
“There was no riot,” read a sign carried on Sunday.
The Civil Human Rights Front, the pro-democracy political advocacy group that organized last Sunday’s protest as well as the latest one, called Saturday for the rally to go ahead after Lam’s announcement.
“Postponement is not withdrawal,” the group said on its Facebook page Saturday,.
It said that last Sunday’s protest drew just over a million people, though police put the figure at about 240,000.
— CNBC’s Vivian Kam and Yolande Chee contributed to this report.