‘Sea of black’ Hong Kong protesters demand leader step down
HONG KONG, June 16: Hundreds of thousands of black-clad protesters in Hong Kong demanded on Sunday that the city's leader step down over her handling of a bill that would have allowed extradition to China and which sparked one of the most violent protests in decades.
Some carried white carnation flowers and others held banners saying, "Do not shoot, we are HongKonger" - an appeal to police who fired rubber bullets and tear gas at protesters on Wednesday, injuring more than 70 people.
The protesters formed a sea of black along roads, walkways and train stations across Hong Kong's financial centre to vent their frustration and anger at Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam. "It's much bigger today. Many more people," said one protester who gave her name as Ms Wong. "I came today because of what happened on Wednesday, with the police violence."
Loud cheers rang out when activists called through loud hailers for Lam's resignation and the cry "step down" echoed through the streets. Protesters also chanted "pursue the black police", angry at what they feel was an overreaction by police.
Beijing-backed Lam on Saturday indefinitely delayed an extradition bill that would have allowed people to be sent to mainland China for trial, expressing "deep sorrow and regret" although she stopped short of apologizing. It was a dramatic retreat by Lam, but for many opponents, a suspension of the bill was not enough and Sunday's marchers called for it to be scrapped and Lam to go.
"We want to pressure our government because (they) didn't respond to our first march," said Icy Tang, newly graduated from university in Hong Kong. "So we are coming for the second time - and hope she will listen."
The about-face was one of the most significant political turnarounds by the Hong Kong government since Britain returned the territory to China in 1997, and it threw into question Lam's ability to continue to lead the city. "Carrie Lam refused to apologize yesterday. It's unacceptable," said 16-year-old Catherine Cheung. "She's a terrible leader who is full of lies ... I think she's only delaying the bill now to trick us into calming down." Her classmate, Cindy Yip, said: "That's why we're still demanding the bill be scrapped. We don't trust her anymore. She has to quit."
Critics say the planned extradition law could threaten Hong Kong's rule of law and its international reputation as an Asian financial hub. Some Hong Kong tycoons have already started moving personal wealth offshore. Activist investor David Webb, in a newsletter on Sunday, said if Lam was a stock he would recommend shorting her with a target price of zero.
"Call it the Carrie trade. She has irrevocably lost the public's trust," Webb said.
"Her minders in Beijing, while expressing public support for now, have clearly lined her up for the chop by distancing themselves from the proposal in recent days."
China's Communist Party mouthpiece, the People's Daily, said in a commentary on Sunday that central authorities expressed "firm support" for Lam. -REUTERS