Religious Leaders in Hong Kong Call for Government Inquiry and Withdrawal of Extradition Bill

June 19, 2019 Updated: June 21, 2019

UPDATE: June 19, 7:08 p.m. HKT

Cardinal John Tong, the apostolic administrator of Hong Kong, and Reverend Eric So Shing-yit, chairman of the Hong Kong Christian Council, have demanded an independent inquiry into the clashes between protesters and local police that saw over 80 civilians injured on June 12. 

The religious leaders issued their statement on June 19, in response to Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam’s statements during a press conference a day before. 

In their statement, they said that while they accepted Lam’s public apology, they urged the Hong Kong government to “make an explicit, public statement that the [extradition] bill has been withdrawn.” 

The debate into the controversial extradition bill in the Legislative Council has been suspended following Lam’s announcement on June 15.

Protesters occupy a street demanding Hong Kong leader to step down after a rally against the now-suspended extradition bill outside of the Chief Executive Office in Hong Kong on June 17, 2019. (Anthony Kwan/Getty Images)

UPDATE: June 19, 6:33 p.m. HKT

US Senator Writes to Google CEO Over Translation Gaffe Related to Hong Kong

Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) has written to Google CEO Sundar Pichai over a Chinese translation error by Google Translate.

On June 14, AFP reported that when the phrase “I am sad to see Hong Kong become part of China” in English was entered into Google Translate, the translation in both simplified and traditional Chinese became “I am happy to see Hong Kong become part of China.”

Hawley wrote in his June 18 letter (pdf): “Given Google’s close relationship with Beijing and financial incentive to remain close to that authoritarian government, I remain concerned that Google may have been negligent in performing the due diligence that could have averted this mistranslation at a juncture where precision of message is so critical.”

 

“That due diligence is particularly necessary in the case of Hong Kong, as the Government of the People’s Republic of China is intent on reasserting control over the city and has long used information operations to advance its political agenda,” the senator warned in the letter. 

He continued: “The people of Hong Kong are fighting now to preserve the democratic character of their city. Millions of those people are relying on Google’s products to advance this noble cause. As a company whose success stems in part from the liberties inherent to American society, Google ought to take this cause as seriously as those using its platforms to fight for their freedom.” 

Google has since fixed the translation error, with an unnamed Google spokesperson telling AFP that, “These automatic systems can sometimes make unintentional mistakes like translating a negative to a positive.”

In Hong Kong, people are protesting against a proposed extradition bill, which would allow the chief executive to sign off on extradition requests, including from mainland China, without approval from the Legislative Council.

There have between two major protests in Hong Kong—one on June 9 when over a million people took part, and the other a week later with about 2 million participants. 

Protesters occupy a street demanding Hong Kong leader to step down after a rally against the now-suspended extradition bill outside of the Chief Executive Office in Hong Kong on June 17, 2019. (Anthony Kwan/Getty Images)

UPDATE: June 19, 4:17 p.m. HKT

Silence at HK Legislative Council to Commemorate Deceased Protester

Pan-democratic lawmakers, clad in black while carrying white flowers, held a moment of silence to pay tribute a protester who died last week, at the Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (LegCo) on June 19, according to Hong Kong media RTHK.

The protester died after falling off scaffolding while putting up a banner at the side of a shopping mall in Admiralty on June 15.

Andrew Leung, the pro-Beijing head of LegCo, initially rejected the lawmakers’ request for mourning the dead protest, saying that mourning at LegCo could only be offered to politicians or victims of major disasters, according to RTHK.

Leung eventually adjourned the meeting for five minutes to allow the lawmakers to pay tribute.

Hong Kong 5 minutes of silence for dead protester
Pro-democracy lawmakers hold five minutes of silence in the Legislative Council in Hong Kong on June 19, 2019, for a man who fell to his death on June 15 during a protest against a controversial extradition bill. (Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images)

Also at LegCo, Secretary of Security John Lee apologized to the public, when he was asked by pro-democracy lawmakers Au Nok-hin and Lam Cheuk-ting over the police’s excessive use of force against protesters, according to Hong Kong Free Press.

On June 13, Police Commissioner Stephen Lo publicly stated that over 150 rounds of tear gas, 20 bean bag rounds, and multiple rubber bullets were fired by the police in a “restrained and tolerant” manner, according to Hong Kong media, a day after major clashes between protesters and police officers.

Democratic Party Chair Wu Chi-wai also questioned Lee the necessity for the police to fire tear gas at his direction when he already identified himself as a lawmaker and tried to talk to a police commander outside of LegCo on June 12.

Lee responded by saying that the Complaints Against Police Office (CAPO), a unit within the Hong Kong Police Force will look into Wu’s statements.

Pro-democracy lawmaker Gary Fan (C) holds a placard as he and other pro-democracy lawmakers hold five minutes of silence in the Legislative Council in Hong Kong on June 19, 2019, for a man who fell to his death on June 15 during a protest against a controversial extradition bill. (Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images)

UPDATE: June 19, 2:04 p.m. HKT

College Student Unions Deliver Ultimatum to HK Leader Carrie Lam, Threaten More Action

The Student’s Unions of Higher Institutions announced it would “elevate their actions” in protest against the extradition bill, if the Hong Kong government fails to respond to their four demands by 5 p.m. local time on June 20, Hong Kong media RTHK reported.

The four demands include withdrawal of the bill, and thorough investigation into the police’s alleged use of excessive violence against protesters.

The Student’s Unions of Higher Institution is an alliance of student unions from several schools, including the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Baptist University, and the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

The Institution also called on Hong Kong citizens to gather peacefully outside of Hong Kong government headquarters on Friday, June 21, to voice their demands.

It added it would also support non-cooperative initiatives announced by other organizations, such as blocking Hong Kong metro stations.

Yesterday, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam held a press conference, offering her apology over the “anxieties, concerns, and chaos” caused by the bill. However, she did not announce that the extradition bill would be withdrawn.

Joshua Wong, activist and secretary general of the pro-democracy political party Demosisto, spoke of more protests following Lam’s apology. He called Lam’s apology “not sincere at all.”

Pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong (C-R) holds a protest poster as he speaks to members of the media outside the Legislative Council building following a press conference by Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam in Hong Kong on June 18, 2019. (Carl Court/Getty Images)

On June 19, Hong Kong Free Press reported that seven men and one woman, who were arrested on June 12, have been set free, after police couldn’t find enough evidence to file charges against them.

At around 3 p.m. local time on June 12, a bout of violence broke out when local police began using pepper spray to stop protestors charging across police lines outside the Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (LegCo). Some protesters were also throwing plastic bottles at police.

On June 17, Police Commissioner Stephen Lo said 32 were arrested on June 12, according to Hong Kong media. Among them, 5 were arrested for rioting.

Hong Kongers Protest Over China Extradition Law
A man photographs protest posters on the wall of a stairway near the Legislative Council building on June 18, 2019 in Hong Kong. (Carl Court/Getty Images)

UPDATE: June 19, 10:26 a.m. HKT

HK’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club Raises Concerns About Police Abuse Against Reporters

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC) in Hong Kong issued a June 18 press statement regarding press access and journalists’ rights in covering the recent city protests.

Hong Kongers Protest Over China Extradition Law
A police officer fire teargas during a protest in Hong Kong, China on June 12, 2019. (Anthony Kwan/Getty Images)

“The FCC expresses grave concern about reports of journalists with visible press identification apparently being targeted by police firing tear gas,” they said in the statement.

The FCC added that reporters have the rights to cover the protest against the proposed extradition bill “free of violence and intimidation by authorities” under Hong Kong law.

Earlier, on June 17, the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) issued a report over abuses against the press. In the report, 26 journalists who were interviewed had provided photographs or videos to support their claims of abuse from certain police officers during incidents from June 10 and June 14.

One video that captured police abuse was widely shared on social media. It shows an unnamed French journalist who intervened to prevent the police from firing more tear gas at journalists.

“We condemn any use of force against journalists during the protests, urge an independent investigation of allegations made by journalists and other witnesses of the use of force by police, and call for such investigations to be thorough and transparent,” the FCC statement read.

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