When the Hong Kong government announced last week that they had suspended the controversial extradition bill, it was a temporary victory for the people of the city who fought for their rights. Chief Executive Carrie Lam has apologized for the bill. Now Hongkongers want the bill gone forever.
Protests and apology
“I offer my most sincere apology to all people of Hong Kong… I’ve still got much to learn and do in better balancing diverse interests, in listening more to all walks of life, and in taking our society forward,” she said in a statement (The New York Times). Despite offering an apology, Lam admitted that the bill was only in suspension and that it wouldn’t be withdrawn. She said that legislative work on the bill simply won’t be resumed as long as there is a public dispute over it.
This is something that has ticked off Hongkongers. The fact that the bill has not been withdrawn presents a clear danger since the administration might try to sneak it through in the future when the public has calmed down. This would give China the right to prosecute every citizen in Hong Kong by taking them to the mainland. “Not only is this apology not sincere, it is fake. We need to point out that Carrie Lam has created a governance crisis… more and more rallies, actions, or protests will happen soon [in Hong Kong],” Joshua Wong, the student leader of the 2014 “Umbrella Movement” protests, said to The Washington Post.
Over 2 million Hongkongers are said to have participated in a recent mass protest, which in a city of 7 million is a clear signal that the citizens do not approve of the extradition amendment bill at all. According to police sources, turnaround at the peak was at 338,000. The protesters demanded that the bill be completely scrapped rather than be put on indefinite suspension. Several human rights organizations have criticized the HK government, accusing them of siding with Beijing to erode personal freedoms of the city.
“Truth is, citizens [have taken] to the street again, insisting [on] the withdrawal of the extradition bill and the resignation of Carrie Lam… Facing such public rage, Carrie Lam simply makes apology through a press release, for ‘the inadequate work of the government’ but not for pushing to pass the bill or police’s crackdown on protesters. She even stressed that she would continue to serve the citizens. This is a total insult to and fooling the people who took to the street! Hong Konger will not accept this!” the Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF) said in a statement (Hong Kong Free Press).
Censored in China
In China, the state took extreme precautions to censor all information about the ongoing protests in Hong Kong. The government department in charge of propaganda has been instructed to ban all videos related to the extradition bill. Instead, Beijing is spinning the Hong Kong protests as anti-U.S. demonstrations.
State media China Daily circulated fake news, suggesting that parents in Hong Kong had carried out a huge protest against American interference in the city’s affairs. It accused foreign powers of trying to divide Hong Kong society and create chaos in the city. After users started commenting that the report was fake, China Daily deleted the article.
Beijing is very scared about how things in Hong Kong have unfurled. China apparently calculated that it could make the Hong Kong government pass the extradition bill without any issues. But after millions of people protested on the streets, the Chinese government has slowly stepped back on its efforts to get the bill passed. The authorities are afraid that protests in Hong Kong might inspire similar demonstrations in the mainland, threatening the power of communist rule.