Hong Kong leader offers 'sincere and humble' apology to her people

Cheryl Sanders
June 17, 2019

Hong Kong was braced for another mass rally Sunday as public anger seethed following unprecedented clashes between protesters and police over an extradition law, despite a climb-down by the city's embattled leader in suspending the bill.

"Hello world and hello freedom".

In the past, new legislation introduced in Hong Kong was expected to be approved by the Hong Kong Bar Association before it could pass in the City Legislative Council (LegCo). "Withdraw the extradition bill".

Asked repeatedly on Saturday if she would step down, Lam avoided answering directly and appealed to the public to "give us another chance". "Drop all political persecutions".

After the protest began, a government spokesman issued a statement attributed to Lam that acknowledged "deficiencies in the government's work had led to substantial controversies and disputes in society, causing disappointment and grief among the people".

The Hong Kong protests have been the largest in the city since crowds came out against the bloody suppression of pro-democracy demonstrations centered around Beijing's Tiananmen Square, June 4, 1989. Numerous attendees demonstrated against the extradition bill.

Lam took note of the strong sentiments of residents, fearing the bill could be used to extradite residents to mainland China for political or inadvertent business offenses.

Former Hong Kong legislator Lee Cheuk-yan says the activists' mission has become a long-term struggle and not a daily struggle. Hong Kong was bracing Sunday for another massive protest over an unpopular extradition bill.

The Civil Human Rights Front, which is organising the rallies, said Hong Kongers would protest and strike on Monday "until their voices are heard". He told journalists he needed a bit of time but, "No matter what happens, I will join the protest soon".

And while the spark for the last week of protests has been the extradition bill, the movement has since morphed into the latest expression of public rage against both the city's leaders and Beijing.

"In Hong Kong, residence rights, one of the fundamental human rights, are being ignored and we want you to know the serious reality", Gordon Chick Kui-wai said past year.

As of 7:30 p.m. local time, thousands of protesters were still gathered outside government headquarters, although there were no signs of a replay of the violence that broke out at the same spot last week.

They were streaming into an outdoor space near the city's legislative chamber that had been closed earlier in the day, allowing police to reopen roads that had been blocked since Sunday's protest. Police said they suspected the 35-year-old was suicidal.

At nightfall, protesters filled the roads outside of the government headquarters and legislature. Some labor unions, teachers' associations and other groups were planning boycotts of work and classes, demanding the Lam administration retire the proposed amendments and not bring them up again for passage at a later stage.

However, the Hong Kong government's decision on Saturday to suspend the hated extradition bill will ease the squeeze that Beijing is facing from said "foreign forces" or global governments, as those who are not Marxist-Leninists prefer to say.

"Even if the external environment continues to be unclear and the social atmosphere is tense recently, overall Hong Kong's economic and financial markets are still operating in a stable and orderly manner", he wrote.

A woman in black speaking for the protesters responded with her own microphone.

While Lam delayed the bill, it has yet to be completely shelved, despite broad domestic and worldwide concern that the status of Hong Kong as a financial hub could be eroded by changes to the rule of law.

Police removed some of the barriers protesters had set up but refrained from using force.

Protesters have mainly focused their anger on Lam, who had little choice but to carry through dictates issued by Beijing, where President Xi Jinping has enforced increasingly authoritarian rule.

"The extradition bill being suspended only means it can be revived any time Carrie Lam wants", said activist Lee Cheuk-yan. They point to the failure of the "Umbrella Movement" to win any concessions, the imprisonment of protest leaders, the disqualification of popular lawmakers and the disappearance of Beijing-critical booksellers, among recent examples.

Almost 2 million of the city's 7 million people turned out, according to estimates by protest organizers.

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