Asia

Sea of protesters brings Hong Kong to a standstill

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Organizers of Sunday's march said around 2 million people took part, a substantial increase on the 1.03 million claimed last week and against expectations of lower turnout following violent scenes outside the legislature on Wednesday. Police said 338,000 people took part Sunday. Large numbers of protesters gathered in the city's Victoria Park just after midday Sunday, donning black and wearing white ribbons on their chests. Many carried bunches of white flowers to honor a man who died after falling from a building Saturday while holding banners opposing the extradition bill."We buy the white flower to hope that he can rest in peace," said 23-year-old Michael, who works in concessions and gave only his first name. Like many others around him, he carried a sign saying "Freedom is Not Free."On Saturday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam, the top official in Hong Kong, said passage of the bill would be suspended and a second reading due to take place this month canceled. There is no timeline for discussions around the bill to resume, Lam said, and she indicated it likely will not pass this year.Faced with yet another huge protest over her handling of the bill, Lam issued a rare apology Sunday night, admitting "deficiencies" in the government's work had led to "substantial controversies and disputes in society," causing disappointment and grief for citizens of Hong Kong.Hundreds of thousands of protesters dressed in black take part in a new rally against a controversial extradition law proposal in Hong Kong on June 16, 2019.But for the protesters, neither the suspension nor the apology was enough. They fear the bill could be used to extradite residents to mainland China for political or inadvertent business offenses and are pushing for it to be shelved completely. "We need to come out and tell the government we cannot approve this China extradition bill," said Michael, adding that he believed Lam would continue to push for the bill at a later date. "We need to stop this because Hong Kong is a very special place. The economy, the culture, it's a special one for the world," he said. Members of the early crowd were predominantly young people, but they were soon joined by families.Aerial shots along the protest route, from the city's Victoria Park through the downtown area to Tim Mei Avenue in Admiralty, showed the crowd at standstill, as crowd numbers continued to surge throughout the afternoon and into the early evening.Mandy, who turned 18 on Sunday, said she didn't attend the first anti-extradition protest on June 9 when organizers estimate more than 1 million people — about one in seven of the city's population — took to the streets in a peaceful march against the legislation."Through this week I think the problem has become more and more serious and I should stand out. So I joined this campaign today," she said. "I think this protest is more important than my birthday so I come here," she said. Chik Kim Ping, 65, and her husband Tse, 70, traveled from the New Territories in the north of the city to protest the extradition bill. "It's important for us to do this for our children," Chik Kim Ping said. "We are old and don't have much time left. We won't see what's going to happen in 2047 (when Hong Kong fully becomes part of China) but our children will."Buses drive through crowds of protesters outside the Legislative Council building as they demonstrate against the now-suspended extradition bill on June 16, 2019 in Hong Kong. Police presence on parts of the march was more or less invisible, a stark contrast to Wednesday's heavy crackdown involving hundreds of officers in heavy riot gear using tear gas and rubber bullets.

No violence

The decision to go ahead with Sunday's protest followed violent clashes between police and protesters Wednesday, after tens of thousands of mostly young people surrounded the city's government headquarters, forcing legislators to postpone a debate on the bill. Organizers of Sunday's demonstration called for authorities to drop charges against the 11 people arrested during protests Wednesday, amid widespread criticism of police tactics. Many of those attending Sunday's march carried signs with the slogan "stop killing us" alongside images of bloodied protesters.Up to 5,000 riot police fired 150 rounds of tear gas, rubber bullets and bean bag rounds during the course of Wednesday's clashes. The number of tear gas canisters used was almost double the amount fired during 2014's pro-democracy Umbrella Movement, when the city was brought to a standstill for 79 days.Videos from Wednesday's protest showed police spraying tear gas directly into protesters' faces and beating them with batons.Speaking after Lam's news conference Saturday, pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo said protests would continue throughout the city until she steps down."If she refuses to withdraw, to scrap tRead More – Source

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