Hong Kong protesters call for new demo after demands are snubbed

Protesters march toward the Hong Kong government headquarters in this June 16, 2019 file photo. — AFP

HONG KONG — Hong Kong opposition groups called on Thursday for another major demonstration after the pro-Beijing government did not respond to demands of protesters who have shaken the city with massive rallies.

Millions have marched this month to oppose a proposed law that would have allowed extraditions to the Chinese mainland, but the huge protest movement has morphed into a larger rebuke of Hong Kong's administration.

Under-fire chief executive Carrie Lam has apologized and suspended the controversial bill, but that has failed to quell the opposition, with protesters demanding she step down and completely withdraw the legislation.

A number of protest groups, including student unions, called for supporters to mobilize on Friday, asking people to gather at the city's main government complex to "hold picnics" outside the legislature starting 7:00 a.m. on Friday (2300 GMT Thursday).

They also recommended a go-slow protest on roads and public transport, and urged people to gather in other parts of the city to show their support.

"Blossom everywhere," read a statement circulated in a chat group on the messaging app Telegram by eight informal protest groups.

"There are many ways to participate. Think carefully about your own ways to show your love to Hong Kong. June 21 is not the end of the fight, there will be more in the coming days."

The groups also recommended a mass strike, but it was not immediately clear which business or professional groups would support such a call.

The government announced that central administrative offices would be closed on Friday "due to security considerations".

In addition to Lam's ouster and the extradition law's withdrawal, protesters have also demanded the release of those detained during sporadic clashes with police last week, and an investigation into allegations of police brutality.

"The hope is to apply pressure before civil servants go to work if we have a certain amount of people," said So Tsun Fung, president of the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) Students Union.

Lam has defied calls from protesters and vowed to stay on as chief executive.

"The deadline has passed. The stone-hearted Carrie Lam can't see and can't hear our voices... But we won't be dejected," said lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki, from the minority pro-democracy bloc in Hong Kong's legislature.

"If anyone is hurt tomorrow with batons, tear gas or rubber bullets, or arrested... all responsibility will lie with Carrie Lam."

The Civil Human Rights Front, a group that helped facilitate the massive June 9 and June 16 rallies, said it would support any lawful and peaceful protest by student groups.

The ongoing protests have been largely leaderless, with no one group or individual articulating demands or negotiating with authorities on the demonstrators' behalf.

Claudia Mo, another opposition lawmaker, said in a post on her verified Facebook page that she had communicated with both the government and the student protesters, and had urged the police not to use force.

Opponents of the extradition bill that sparked the crisis have said they fear the proposal will ensnare the people of Hong Kong in mainland China's opaque and politicized justice system, and also give Beijing a tool to target its critics based in the semi-autonomous territory. — AFP