A massive rally was held in Hong Kong on Sunday to oppose the government’s controversial extradition bill amendment.
About two million people joined the protest march on Hong Kong Island to vent anger over Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s decision to suspend – but not withdraw – the controversial bill, according to the organizers’ estimates.The estimate has not been independently verified but if confirmed it would be the largest demonstration in Hong Kong’s history. Police estimated that the rally attracted only 338,000 people.
Protesters also called for Lam to step down.
The Civil Human Rights Front, which organized the rally, said the number of protesters at an earlier march, on June 9, reached 1.03 million, while police pegged that crowd at 240,000 at its peak.
Some protesters brought white flowers to Pacific Place mall in Admiralty to pay tribute to a demonstrator who died on Saturday when he fell from the top of the building after an anti-extradition protest. The mall also served as a refuge for thousands of protesters after they were dispersed by police with tear gas on the evening of June 12.
The march came after Lam announced the suspension of the bill on Saturday, saying she felt “deep sorrow and regret” that the government had failed to properly explain the bill to the public over the past few months.
Lam has failed to listen to the people’s views, said Jimmy Sham, convenor of the Civil Human Rights Front.
March organizers urged the government to stop arresting anti-extradition law protesters, free those who have been arrested over the past week, and retract the characterization of the June 12 protest as a “riot.”
“Only when Carrie Lam apologizes, withdraws the bill and steps down will Hong Kong people end all of our protests,” Bonnie Leung of the Civil Human Rights Front told RTHK.
On Sunday evening, Lam apologized through a statement for how her administration has handled its unpopular bid to amend Hong Kong’s extradition law.
“The Chief Executive admitted that the deficiencies in the government’s work had led to substantial controversies and disputes in society, causing disappointment and grief among the people,” according to the statement. “The Chief Executive apologized to the people of Hong Kong for this and pledged to adopt a most sincere and humble attitude to accept criticisms and make improvements in serving the public.”
Lam should step down because she has lost credibility due to the lateness of her apology, said James To Kun-sun, a Democratic Party lawmaker and deputy chairman of the Panel on Security, Legislative Council.
Lam’s decision to suspend the bill was tantamount to withdrawing it, said Ivan Choy Chi-keung, a senior lecturer, Department of Government and Public Administration at the Chinese University Hong Kong. However, Lam’s apology came too late, Choy added.
However, Michael Tien Puk-sun, a pro-establishment legislator, said the public should give Lam a chance because she had the courage to suspend the bill.
On Sunday evening, the protest spilled over from the planned route to multiple key streets in Admiralty, Wan Chai and Causeway Bay.
Civil Human Rights Front originally obtained approval from the police to march from Victoria Park in Causeway Bay to the government headquarters in Admiralty.
Some unions and other groups will go ahead with labor action planned for Monday.