Source: SupChina (6/18/19)
Two million Hong Kongers march on the streets
For the third time in a week, enormous numbers of people in Hong Kong took to the streets on June 16 to demand government accountability to their voices and the permanent cancellation of a controversial extradition bill.
- As many as TWO MILLION attended, organizers said. Given the way people spilled out onto and filled multiple parallel streets (last week’s protests were mostly confined to one thoroughfare), the number seems reasonable.
- That makes this the largest protest in Hong Kong history, and a stunningly large demonstration by percentage of population: About 25 percent of the city protested on one day — Hong Kong has 7.5 million residents.
- The extradition bill that the people feared would fracture Hong Kong’s independent judiciary and give Beijing the ability to scoop up dissidents in the city has been shelved, for now. The city’s chief executive, Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥 Lín Zhèng Yuè’é), has given a public apology. But the protesters have clear and specific further demands, for example:
- “Withdraw the extradition bill. Carrie Lam step down. Drop all political prosecutions!” is what Joshua Wong (黃之鋒 Huáng Zhīfēng), the famous student protester, tweeted as he left prison the day after the protests. (Wong is one of several leaders of the 2014 Occupy protests to be sent to jail for “unlawful assembly” back in 2017.)
WHAT DOES IT MEAN? WHAT’S NEXT?
- The protests are a major embarrassment, not only for Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam but also for Chinese President Xí Jìnpíng 习近平, who leads the government that has failed to convince Hong Kongers to trust it more in the years since the 1997 handover of sovereignty from Britain.
- The whole affair is sending a stench across the South China Sea to Taiwan, where the idea of a Hong Kong-style “one country, two systems” formula for the eventual unification with Beijing has been viewed with skepticism all along. Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文 Cài Yīngwén) has long said, “As long as I’m President, ‘one country, two systems’ will never be an option,” but now even China-friendly opposition politicians like Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜 Hán Guóyú) are saying that unification won’t happen unless “over my dead body.”
- Many observers see the government’s retreat as a victory for the people of Hong Kong, and a symbol of hope that people power can force accountability on Beijing.
- But the official media in mainland China — in the few cases where the demonstrations in Hong Kong are even mentioned — is blaming the protests on the CIA and other foreign agents, and characterizing them as violent events that most Hong Kongers do not support.