Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yeut-Ngor vowed on Monday to go ahead with the controversial extradition law amendment despite a million people protesting against in on the streets the day before.
Lam noted that a large number of people rallied on Sunday but said there were also positive views on the move, so the government would continue to explain the need for the bill to the community. She spoke at a media briefing at government headquarters on Monday morning with Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah and Security Secretary John Lee Ka-chiu.
Lam said the government would ensure the legal protection of human rights and ensure that safeguards were legally binding by making a policy statement.
She also made it clear that she did not intend to back down or delay the bill, which will go to the Legislative Council for a second reading on Wednesday.
Lam denied that she had ignored any views against the extradition law amendment – saying instead that she and her team listened “attentively” and “humbly” to suggestions. Lam referred to suggestions made by pro-government political parties in regard to a proposal on regular reports provided by the government on extraditions to the Legislative Council.
The Hong Kong leader also denied that she had an emergency meeting with officials from the mainland on Sunday when one million people rallied on the street and denied receiving any instruction from Beijing on the issue.
When asked about the protesters’ call for her to step down, Lam rejected any such move.
“I have been the Chief Executive of Hong Kong for about two years. I have spent every moment of my time to work for the benefit of Hong Kong – every aspect,” she said in an emotional reply, adding that, “I think I will continue to do this in my utmost ability and to address the issues and concerns of Hong Kong people.”
Violent clashes, statement
The 40-minute press conference was the first appearance after an estimated 1.03 million people rallied on Sunday and violent clashes between police and hundreds of protesters who tried to storm the Legislative Council complex in the early hours of Monday.
The clashes broke out when police tried to clear protesters gathered outside the Legislative Council building in Admiralty on Hong Kong Island after the end of the city’s biggest ever rally.
The Hong Kong government issued a statement on Sunday shortly after the rally ended, saying it had already “listened attentively to views expressed and responded positively to suggestions made” and insisted the bill would still go to LegCo’s full council as planned on Wednesday for a second reading.
Several hundred protesters, mainly young people, stayed outside the LegCo building to respond to the call made on Sunday evening by the pro-independence group Studentlocalism and Hong Kong Independence Union. The groups called on protesters to sit in and to surround LegCo.
The protesters rammed police officers with metal barriers and threw bottles at them during chaotic scenes, while police officers fired peppy spray and hit the protestors with batons. Protesters, three police and journalists were hurt during the clashes.
Other protesters were pushed back when riot police arrived. They attempted to put barricades in the middle of the road to make roadblocks – at Tamar Park, Lung Wo Road and the Central Waterfront Promenade – but failed. Police from the special tactical squad fired pepper spray and was able to disperse the mob.
At around 2 am, close to 100 protesters gathered on Harcourt Road but they were eventually dispersed. A further 200 protesters were confronted outside of the former Wan Chai police station – surrounded by police for clearance action which ended on Monday morning.
Police Commissioner Stephen Lo Wai-chung condemned the violence committed a minority of protesters, saying they had ruined Hong Kong’s tradition of peaceful protests, local broadcaster TVB reported. He said the police would investigate all footage of the rally, including clips shown by media organizations, to hunt down those responsible for the clashes.
Meanwhile, the pro-democracy party Civic Party said the government officials should be the ones condemned, as their arrogance and ignorance caused the clashes.
In a radio phone-in program on Monday, people who participated in the rally said they understood young people’s anger and their violent actions because of the voice of people in Hong Kong people was being ignored by the government.