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Thousands protest in Hong Kong as Xi Jinping heads to Japan's G20 summit

Activists have been buoyed by nods of international support and dismal polling numbers for Lam

Natalie Lung Kari Lindberg David Tweed | Bloomberg 

Hong Kong protest

Hong Kong protesters looked to keep their complaints about the Beijing-backed government on the global agenda with a series of demonstrations ahead of President Xi Jinping’s attendance at the Group of 20 summit in Osaka, Japan.

While local media said that Chief Executive Carrie Lam remains adamant and refuses to withdraw extradition legislation that prompted historic protests, activists have been buoyed by nods of support and dismal polling numbers for Lam. Demonstrators delivered letters to local G-20 consulates urging global intervention against the bill before gathering for a “G-20 Free Hong Kong” rally in the evening.

Here’s the latest news:

Demonstration Wraps Up (9:30 p.m.)

Representatives from protest organizer the Civil Human Rights Front read from the group’s manifesto and had the crowd shout slogans in languages of some G-20 countries, starting with Japanese. As the peaceful protest wrapped up, they asked the crowd to hold up phone flashlights and posters. “Free Hong Kong, democracy now! Withdraw evil law!” people chanted as a sea of lights lit up. They sang along to Chinese and English versions of “Do You Hear the People Sing?” from the musical “Les Miserables,” one of the protest movement’s unofficial anthems. CHRF said it didn’t have a crowd estimate.

The pro-democracy Demosisto party and youth groups held a media briefing outside City Hall. They called for people to head to police headquarters in the Wan Chai area and “peacefully” surround it overnight before moving to Justice Place and Government House tomorrow morning.

Kun Chan, a 16-year-old student, said he believed it was only a matter of time before the extradition law passed and that attending the rally was all he could do to show his support for the city and freedoms he held dear. “I know the number of people here is very important to let other countries like England and the US help us to fight China,” Chan said.

Hundreds of protesters remained outside the police building close to midnight. Some barricaded Harcourt Road, a main thoroughfare in Admiralty, Hong Kong broadcaster TVB reported.

Rally Underway (8:45 p.m.)

The event started with a speech by Nathan Law of the Demosisto party, who said the people of Hong Kong want the community to take notice of Beijing’s infringement on their freedoms. “As part of the free world, we stand united against China’s communist regime,” he said.

Rachel Choi, a 27-year-old English teacher, joined two mass protests earlier this month. She said she came out Wednesday night to show the government that she has not forgotten the people detained at previous demonstrations -- their release has become one of the protesters’ major demands. “If I want something, I have to ask for it,” she said.

Thousands Gather in City Center (8:15 p.m.)
Thousands of protesters clad mostly in black gathered outside centrally located Edinburgh Place for the start of the G-20 rally, as a sea of people filled the tree-lined stretch of open space outside City Hall. They shouted slogans in English and Chinese: “Free Hong Kong, democracy now!” They were set to chant in languages of G-20 countries including German, French and Korean.

July 1 Plans (7:30 p.m.)
The CHRF said its planned July 1 protest march would begin in Victoria Park -- the same starting point as historic demonstrations earlier this month -- before following a similar route through the Causeway Bay area to the Central Government Offices in Admiralty.

Hong Kong’s Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung and security chief John Lee briefed media at the city’s Legislative Council. Lam has “already made a very sincere apology and stressed in no uncertain terms that the current-term administration will continue to do our very, very best to serve the community,” Cheung said. “We’ve got a heavy agenda in terms of improving the economy, propelling Hong Kong forward and also enhancing livelihood across the board. So, it’s very important for us to re-launch Hong Kong together.”

China Speaks (3:45 p.m.)

China urged the U.K. to not interfere in Hong Kong as it is a domestic matter, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters in Beijing, after Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said his country would stop selling tear gas and other crowd control equipment to Hong Kong. Geng also looked to quash any further discussion about the Hong Kong unrest when leaders meet in Osaka, saying that the summit was an economic platform.

Media Blitz (1:59 p.m.)

Hong Kong activists raised HK$6.7 million ($858,000) in nine hours in a bid to plaster global newspapers with ads demanding the bill’s withdrawal ahead of the G-20 summit. A group of self-organized Internet users said it planned to issue print advertisements in major papers on Thursday and Friday to protest the legislation, saying it had confirmed ads with the New York Times and the Financial Times.

The ad will read “Save Hong Kong at G20” and feature text of a petition letter calling for the bill to be withdrawn. “We are a group of concerned citizens who have been among the two million protesters marching on the streets of Hong Kong,” the letter reads. “This is our sincere plea for your help to defend our sovereignty and freedoms.”

Organizers to Brief (1 p.m.)

Dozens of protesters marched from the centrally located Japanese consulate to Jardine House, near Victoria Harbor, home of Argentina’s diplomats. Separately, protest organizer the Civil Human Rights Front -- which will hold Wednesday evening’s rally -- said it would meet with police Wednesday afternoon to discuss details of a larger march called for July 1 before briefing media on its plans.

Petitioning US (10 a.m.)

Holding signs saying “President Trump, please liberate Hong Kong,” about 100 protesters left centrally located Chater Garden and made their way to the nearby US consulate. One organizer, Ventus Lau, said the group had acquired a police permit for the protest, which comes ahead of President Donald Trump’s expected meeting with Xi in Japan. The daytime demonstration’s demands include electoral reform, the bill’s withdrawal, Lam’s resignation and the release of people detained after protests earlier this month.

Silent march begins (9 a.m.)

A small crowd of protesters dressed mostly in black prepared to march silently from Chater Garden to foreign consulates -- including the US, Australia and Italy -- ahead of the G-20 summit that begins Friday.

Lam digs in (4:30 a.m.)

The embattled chief executive has told business and community leaders she won’t bow to pressure to withdraw the extradition bill and investigate police tactics during clashes with protesters earlier this month, the South China Morning Post newspaper reported Wednesday, citing minutes from a closed-door meeting held last week. Lam, who was speaking after protesters laid siege to police headquarters Friday, stressed the need to defend the law enforcement agency after officers deployed tear gas to quell what they said was a “riot situation.”

U.K. halts tear gas sales (June 25)

The U.K. halted licenses to export tear gas and other crowd-control equipment to Hong Kong until concerns about human rights and fundamental freedoms in the former British colony have been addressed, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said in statement to Parliament Tuesday. U.K. remained “very concerned with the situation in Hong Kong” Hunt said, urging a robust, independent investigation into the police force’s decision to use force during the June 12 protests.

Lam’s popularity plunges (June 25)

Lam’s approval rating tumbled 9 percentage points in a month, falling to a record low of 23%, according to a survey released Tuesday by the University of Hong Kong’s Public Opinion Programme. The plunge means that Lam is poised to begin her third year in office next week more unpopular than any of her three predecessors at this point in their terms. Her support rating -- an average of the ratings given to her by all respondents, on a scale of one to 100 -- is almost as poorly as former Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa’s after similar mass protests in 2003. That unrest contributed to his decision to resign more than a year later.

First Published: Wed, June 26 2019. 23:59 IST