HONG KONG, June 16 -- Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong has called on residents not to be used as pawns by foreign forces amid the US-China trade war, and said more than 60 statements issued by overseas powers had fuelled tension over the controversial extradition bill.
More than 200 Hong Kong delegates to the National People's Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) met officials from the liaison office on Sunday, when they were also asked to support the Hong Kong government in riding out the storm. The meeting was held hours before people took to the streets for a second consecutive Sunday, despite Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announcing the suspension of the legislation the day before. The bill, if passed, would allow the transfer of fugitives to jurisdictions Hong Kong lacks an extradition agreement with, including mainland China. “The liaison office officials recognised the Hong Kong government’s intention to pass the extradition bill to plug legal loopholes. But it’s a shame that … many foreign forces keep interfering and smearing the bill,” said Tam Yiu-chung, the city’s only representative to the NPC’s Standing Committee. He and the other delegates met Wang Zhimin, director of the liaison office, and other duty chiefs for about an hour.
HONG KONG, June 15 -- Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor is set to announce a pause in the passage of the controversial extradition bill at a press conference at the government’s headquarters, capping the last 48 hours of rapidly moving developments.
She held a meeting with key government officials at nearly midnight on Friday, and on Saturday morning met pro-establishment lawmakers. The pause is to break the biggest impasse in city politics in recent years, after hundreds of thousands marched in protest last Sunday and violent clashes broke out between protesters and police on Wednesday, with injuries sustained on both sides. But the organisers of the historic march on June 9, the Civil Human Rights Front, and the pro-democracy Confederation of Trade Unions (CTU), have vowed to carry on with another march this Sunday.
It issued another notice in the afternoon saying that it will also not hold a session on Friday. The notice added that further announcement will be made once the council president sets the time of the meeting. For security reasons, the Central Government Offices are closed on Thursday and Friday. The city’s transport operator suspended services to Admiralty station, said RTHK on Thursday morning. The government headquarters are located in Admiralty. The station was reopened for services from 2pm on Thursday.
Hong Kong’s General Chamber of Commerce, which says it represents businesses employing a third of the local workforce, said large-scale protests show that the public has serious apprehensions about the bill, reported Bloomberg.
“We sincerely urge the government to continue to listen to stakeholders and engage in meaningful dialogue with the public,” said Mr Aron Harilela, the group’s chairman, adding that it agrees with the underlying principle of the Bill. “We call for restraint from all parties to ensure that this issue will not undermine business confidence in Hong Kong and our international reputation,” Chamber chief executive officer Shirley Yuen added, according to a statement. Meanwhile, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen told reporters on Thursday that Hong Kongers have the right to pursue their way of life and system they want. She said that her government would not accept the Hong Kong extradition Bill, adding that it violates Taiwan’s sovereignty. China considers self-governed Taiwan a renegade province with no right to state-to-state ties, and territory to be “reunified” by force if necessary. On Thursday morning, more than a hundred protesters were seen lingering on Hong Kong’s streets as heavy rain fell. Some of them turned up at the LegCo complex at Admiralty before 11am to clear debris left behind from the protests overnight but riot police turned up and lined up before them. Uniformed police with helmets and shields blocked overhead walkways, while a long row of police vans were parked nearby, according to Reuters. Tensions spiked for a while before the officers left. The protesters then resumed clearing debris while others clustered around the LegCo complex.
Labour Party politician Fernando Cheung emerged from the complex and told those gathering around that there would be no debate on Thursday. He also urged the people to go home and rest. Chinese state media said in editorials published on Thursday that the protests were “hammering” Hong Kong’s reputation. “It is lawlessness that will hurt Hong Kong, not the proposed amendments to its fugitive law,” said the English-language China Daily. Security remained tight and police reopened several roads in the affected area, including Harcourt Road and Queensway.
LONDON, June 13 -- Former colonial ruler Britain urged the Hong Kong government to "listen to the concerns of its people" amid violent protests on Wednesday (June 12) against plans to allow extraditions to mainland China.
"The ongoing protests in Hong Kong are a clear sign of significant public concern about the proposed changes to extradition laws. I call on all sides to remain calm and peaceful," Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said in a statement. "I urge the Hong Kong government to listen to the concerns of its people and its friends in the international community and to pause and reflect on these controversial measures."
"It is essential that the authorities engage in meaningful dialogue and take steps to preserve Hong Kong's rights and freedoms and high degree of autonomy, which underpin its international reputation." "Upholding the principle of 'One Country, Two Systems', provided for in the legally binding Sino-British Joint Declaration, is vital to Hong Kong's future success." Britain handed control of Hong Kong back to China in 1997 on the basis of the Joint Declaration it signed with Beijing, which guarantees freedoms in the semi-autonomous city until 2047.
Violent clashes broke out in Hong Kong on Wednesday as police tried to stop protesters storming the city's Parliament, while tens of thousands of people blocked key arteries in a show of strength against government plans to allow extraditions to China. Police used tear gas, rubber bullets and batons to disperse crowds of black-clad demonstrators - most of them young people and students - calling on the authorities to scrap the Beijing-backed law. Speaking in Parliament, British Prime Minister Theresa May said London was concerned about the potential effect of the proposals, particularly given the large number of UK citizens in Hong Kong.
"We have been unequivocal in our views," she told MPs. "It is vital that those extradition arrangements are in line with the rights and freedoms that were set down in that... Joint Declaration." Foreign Office Asia minister Mark Field told Parliament on Monday that Britain fears a "chilling effect" on Hong Kong freedoms if the extradition laws are approved. He said Britain "remains acutely aware" of its enduring responsibilities towards Hong Kong through the Joint Declaration. "Many fear, above all, that Hong Kong nationals and residents risk being pulled into China's legal system, which can involve lengthy pre-trial detentions, television confessions and an absence of many of the judicial safeguards that we see in Hong Kong," Mr Field said. "The changes that they have proposed fail to address fully a number of the core issues that we and others have raised."
HONG KONG, June 12 -- Tens of thousands of masked protesters armed with umbrellas and goggles are occupying all roads leading to Hong Kong's legislature as the government is forced to delay the debate on the highly contentious extradition bill.
Protesters, mostly young people who had camped there overnight, are building metal barricades and walls of loose bricks in a face-off with riot police bearing shields and batons. Police fired pepper jets and rubber bullets into the crowds earlier. Pro-government lawmakers are nowhere in sight. Today’s protest follows Sunday’s march, the biggest since the 1997 handover.
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HONG KONG, June 10 -- Hong Kong's pro-Beijing leader on Monday refused to scrap a controversial plan to allow extraditions to the Chinese mainland, a day after huge crowds came out to oppose the proposal.
Striking a defiant tone after the city's largest protest since the 1997 handover, chief executive Carrie Lam said the legislature would debate the bill on Wednesday as planned, rejecting calls to delay or withdraw the law. The decision sets her administration on a collision course with opponents who have vowed to ramp up their protests if their demands are not met. Sunday saw huge crowds march in blazing summer heat through the streets of the financial hub's main island in a noisy, colorful demonstration calling on the government to scrap its planned extradition law. Organizers said as many as a million people turned out -- the largest protest in three decades and the biggest by far since the city's return to Chinese rule. Lam's government is pushing a bill through the legislature that would allow extraditions to any jurisdiction with which it does not already have a treaty -- including mainland China. Authorities say it is needed to plug loopholes and to stop the city being a bolt hole for fugitives. But the proposals have birthed an opposition that unites a wide cross-section of the city with critics fearing the law will entangle people in China's opaque and politicized court system.
No instructions from Beijing
In her first comments since the mass rallies, Lam said she had no plans to delay or change the law. She denied ignoring the huge public backlash and said her administration had already made major concessions to ensure the city's unique freedoms would be protected and that human rights safeguards met international standards. "I and my team have not ignored any views expressed on this very important piece of legislation. We have been listening and listening very attentively," she said. "I've not received any instructions or mandate from Beijing to do this bill," she added. Sunday's huge rally passed without incident until shortly after midnight when small pockets of protesters fought running battles with police in chaotic and violent scenes. Hong Kong police chief Stephen Lo blamed masked demonstrators for trying to "storm" the parliament and vowed to pursue those who were involved. "This is not freedom of speech or the expression of opinions," he told reporters Monday after visiting officers who had been injured. "We the police will definitely get to the bottom who took part in tonight's violent protests," he added.
Years of tumult
Hong Kong has been convulsed by political unrest in recent years as fears soar that a resurgent Beijing is trying to quash the international financial hub's unique freedoms and culture. Under the 50-year handover deal with the British, China agreed to a "one country, two systems" model where Hong Kong would keep freedom of speech and assembly rights that are unheard of on the authoritarian mainland. But many locals believe Beijing is now reneging on that deal, aided by the city's loyalist local government, especially since Xi Jin Ping became China's leader. In 2014 mass democracy protests calling for the right to directly elect Hong Kong's leader paralyzed parts of the city for more than two months with frequent clashes between police and demonstrators. Two years later violent clashes broke out in the crowded district of Mongkok when police tried to close down unlicensed street vendors. Key protest leaders have since been jailed or barred from politics. Many young Hong Kongers have hardened their attitudes towards China after failing to win any concessions since the 2014 protests and the violence after Sunday's rally fits a now familiar pattern. Protest leaders said they planned to respond to Lam's comments later on Monday but they had previously said they would "escalate actions". Senior Chinese party leaders have spoken out in support of the extradition bill but so far Beijing has remained silent on Sunday's huge rally. In an editorial, Beijing's state-run China Daily called the law a "sensible, legitimate" piece of legislation and blamed the protests on "foreign forces". "Unfortunately, some Hong Kong residents have been hoodwinked by the opposition camp and their foreign allies into supporting the anti-extradition campaign," the paper wrote.
HONG KONG, June 9 -- Huge protest crowds thronged Hong Kong on Sunday as anger swells over plans to allow extradition to China, a proposal that has sparked the biggest public backlash against the city's pro-Beijing leadership in years.
Tens of thousands of people marched in blazing summer heat through the cramped streets of the financial hub's main island in a noisy, colorful demonstration calling on the government to scrap its planned extradition law. The city's pro-Beijing leaders are pushing a bill through the legislature that would allow extraditions to any jurisdiction with which it does not already have a treaty -- including mainland China for the first time. Coffee shop owner Marco Ng said he was closing his store to join the march. "Our city matters more than our business," the 26-year-old told AFP. "If we don't speak out, then there's no way that the government will listen to our concerns." "The people's voices are not being heard," added 18-year-old student Ivan Wong. "This bill will not just affect Hong Kong's reputation as an international finance center, but also our judicial system. That has an impact on my future." The proposed law has sparked an opposition that unites a wide demographic, setting off the largest demonstrations since 2014 pro-democracy protests brought parts of the city to a standstill for two months.
Groundswell of opposition
In recent weeks lawyers have held sombre marches dressed in black, anonymous senior judges have given critical media interviews and the city's two main legal groups -- the Law Society and the Bar Association -- have urged a rethink. Business figures are also rattled with multiple chambers of commerce and commercial groups expressing alarm, adding to criticism from the United States, Canada, former colonial power Britain and many European governments. Online petitions have been gathered by groups as diverse as stay-at-home mums, students, nurses and horse racing fans. Hong Kong's leaders, who are not popularly elected, say the law is needed to plug loopholes and stop the city being a bolt hole for mainland fugitives. They say dissidents and critics will not be extradited and have urged quick passage of the bill in order to extradite a Hong Kong man who is wanted in Taiwan for murdering his girlfriend. But critics fear the law would entangle people in China's opaque and politicized court system and say the government is using the Taiwan case as a Trojan Horse. The proposed law has been fast-tracked through the city's legislature which is dominated by pro-Beijing members and on Wednesday it will receive its second reading. The government says it plans to have the law on the statute book by late July. Previous sessions in parliament have descended into chaos with rival lawmakers scuffling. Sunday's march was seen by organizers as an attempt to showcase how wide the opposition to the bill is ahead of the second reading.
BEIJING, June 5 -- China increased the presence of security forces on the streets of Beijing and information restriction on Tuesday, the 30th anniversary of the crackdown on the Tiananmen Square democracy protests, to contain any potential commemorative demonstrations.
A large number of uniformed and plainclothes police officers kept close watch in and around the square, as groups of tourists including foreigners visited the political center of the capital. Some journalists were refused entry. To maintain its firm one-party rule, the Chinese Communist Party justified the 1989 killing of hundreds of protesters and bystanders by declaring it necessary to quell political unrest. Open discussion about the incident remains taboo in China. With the 30th anniversary has also come tight control over the availability and dissemination of related information, as authorities appear concerned about foreign media lambasting the one-party system. In a bid to prevent its people accessing what it considers unsuitable information critical of the ruling Communist Party and government, China has blocked access to many overseas websites such as Google Search, YouTube and Facebook.
Virtual private network software enables internet users in China to circumvent its so-called Great Firewall -- which severely limits open access to the internet -- and visit blocked websites. With the arrival of the anniversary, however, VPN connections have become unreliable, Beijing-based foreign correspondents have reported. Following the 1989 death of Hu Yaobang, sacked as general secretary of the Communist Party two years earlier for his liberal leanings, students rallied to call for democracy and government action on rampant corruption. Support for the protest grew as people poured into Tiananmen Square. The protest defied martial law, declared in late May, and inspired big rallies across China. But from late June 3 into June 5, troops and armored vehicles cleared the square by force, killing protesters and bystanders. In a statement released Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, "We urge the Chinese government to make a full, public accounting of those killed or missing to give comfort to the many victims of this dark chapter of history."
The Chinese Embassy in Washington on Tuesday criticized Pompeo's statement, saying it "grossly intervenes in China's internal affairs, attacks its system, and smears its domestic and foreign policies."
"The Chinese side expresses its strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition to it," the embassy said. Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a press conference Tuesday, "China's tremendous development achievements (after the Tiananmen incident) show that the actions taken by the Chinese government at that time were completely correct." "Political stability, economic development and social progress of the country have maintained and continued," Geng said, adding, "Chinese people will unswervingly move forward along the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics." While a majority of the Chinese newspapers did not make any reference to the 30th anniversary, the English-language version of the Global Times, an influential tabloid affiliated with the Communist Party, made a rare mention of the incident on Monday. "Today's China obviously has no political conditions to suddenly reproduce the riot of 30 years ago," the newspaper's opinion piece reads. "Chinese society today has seen enough of the political tragedies that occurred in other nations such as the Soviet Union."
HONG KONG, June 3 -- Thirty years ago, bullets ripped through the night in Beijing's Tiananmen Square, leaving hundreds if not thousands of unarmed protesters dead in a bloody crackdown by Chinese troops on the student-led demonstrations.
Today, China's economy is the second-largest in the world, and its people are in general more prosperous, but when it comes to remembering the June 3-4, 1989, Tiananmen massacre, much remains off-limits for open discussion, while the younger generation seems unaware and even uninterested in what happened. The bloodshed, the sound of gunfire and armored vehicles rolling through streets in and around the square from dusk till dawn, however, became an unforgettable memory for surviving witnesses.
"I heard gunshots, I felt the heat (of passing bullets), and when I turned around, I saw bullets holes (in the Beijing Hotel) behind me," Johnny Lau, a Hong Kong political commentator who in 1989 was in Tiananmen Square as a newspaper reporter, said in a forum.Lau, who was subsequently targeted for siding with the "counterrevolutionaries," recalled the close encounter he had with the military crackdown. "Then, a group of ordinary people, unarmed, walked up to the soldiers, scolding them for opening fire at the people. All of a sudden, another round of gunshots rang out, and they all fell." "Later I found out that about 350,000 troops from across the country had gathered in Beijing as part of a show of force in what was believed to be an intraparty power grab," Lau added. "But whatever the causes, it was unforgivable for the military to open fire at the people." According to declassified diplomatic documents and casualty statistics, the death toll from the crackdown was estimated at between hundreds and 10,000. The Chinese government has always denied any wrongdoing, first describing the event as a "counterrevolutionary riot," then as "political turmoil" that was settled and needed no more attention. Another journalist, Leung Wai-man, then a rookie reporting on the student demonstration in Beijing, said she witnessed many citizens killed while trying to block armored vehicles from proceeding. "It's a pity that some people are forgetting (about the movement), isolating themselves from it and some even tried to (ignore) it," Leung said. "June 4 deserves to be redressed."