After debate of the government’s controversial extradition bill was suspended by Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam in a press conference on June 15, many are voicing how Lam failed to address the concerns shared by many Hong Kongers over the legislation.
Former Hong Kong officials, including chief secretary Anson Chan and civil service chief Joseph Wong, said on June 15 that Lam should do more than merely “indefinitely suspending” the bill, according to Hong Kong media RTHK.
Chan said Lam should withdraw the bill to satisfy public demand. She said, “It is clear that people do not want the threat of the bill hanging over their heads, nor do they trust her and her team to do the right thing.”
Additionally, Chan criticized Lam for failing to address the excessive use of force by police against protesters on June 12.
Chan said that the Hong Kong leader should have “tendered a sincere apology to the public” in her public address for not listening to the people earlier.
Wong told local media that while the suspension was not enough, it was “better late than never.” He also urged Lam to set up a commission to investigate police actions against protesters on June 12.
Tens of thousands of Hong Kongers had gathered around government buildings on the morning of June 12 in an attempt to prevent the government’s bill from being debated in the pro-Beijing majority Legislative Council (LegCo).
By 11 a.m., an announcement by pro-Beijing head of LegCo Andrew Leung made it clear that the protesters had succeeded in preventing LegCo from convening—for the time being.
But a few hours later, Hong Kong police in riot gear made the decision to use pepper spray, tear gas, rubber bullets, and bean bags in an attempt to remove protestors from the streets after tensions at police cordons of the LegCo building where some protesters had been charging the police line.
Reports indicate that at least 81 people, including 22 police, were injured, with their ages ranging from 15 to 66.
UK-based NGO Hong Kong Watch, in a statement after Lam’s announcement, said it welcomed the decision, but urged the Hong Kong government to withdraw the bill completely. It also called for an independent inquiry into police actions on June 12.
“We call for restraint by the police in response to continuing protests and urge the police to cease harassment and arrests of those who participated in demonstrations this week. We urge the Hong Kong government to exercise restraint in regard to any prosecutions,” the statement read.
Hong Kong Watch’s co-founder and Chair Benedict Rogers said: “The police must not be allowed to behave with impunity. Reports of the police arresting or threatening people in hospitals and universities are deeply concerning and must cease.”
Hong Kong police arrested two student protesters at the University of Hong Kong on June 13.
“Defining the demonstrations as ‘riots’ must be withdrawn,” Rogers added.
Lam had called the protests “organized riots” on June 12.
Amnesty International Hong Kong also joined the calls for a complete withdrawal of the bill, director Tam Man-kei said in a Facebook post. Tam added that he found Lam’s failure to apologize for the police’s actions against protestors unacceptable.
Tam backed calls for an independent commission to investigate police actions, including the use of tear gas and rubber bullets on protesters. He said that Amnesty has been proactively following United Nations protocols to follow up on the developments in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong Organizations
In response to Lam’s June 15 suspension, three Hong Kong organizations have publicly urged Hong Kongers to participate in the June 16 march, scheduled to being at 2:30 p.m. local time.
HKJA had previously issued a statement condemning police for “totally ignoring the safety of journalists and severely trampling on their right to reporting.”
Yesterday, HKJA announced on its website that journalists were welcomed to get equipment that the association ordered, including industrial helmets, reflective vests, and 3M respirators.
The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU)—an independent union representing over 190,000 members in sectors such as construction, retail, education, social welfare, and property management—said it will hold a rally beginning at 2 p.m. on Monday, June 17, since Lam could still introduce the bill in LegCo at any time in the future, according to its Facebook page.
The planned HKCTU rally joins wider efforts on June 17 propelled by the Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF). HKCTU announced on June 14 that it would support the CHRF’s rally of “three suspensions,” boycotting classes and not going to work on the same day.
Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union (HKPTU), a social concern group with over 100,000 members—from kindergarteners to universities—called on its members to take part in both the June 16 march and June 17 rally, according to its Facebook page.
Aside from calling Lam to withdraw the bill, HKPTU said it has received complaints from teachers saying that the Hong Kong Education Bureau has been calling schools to enquire about how many of their teachers and students had taken part in the June 12 protests.
HKPTU condemned the bureau for putting pressure on schools and called it to stop such inquiries.