A million Hong Kong citizens went on a peaceful demonstration in Hong Kong on 12th June 2019 protesting against the government’s proposed Extradition Bill. Not only did the government refuse the demands of the demonstrators to retract the Bill, but they also described the movement as a “riot”. The police used heavy handed tactics to disperse the crowds including deployment of tear gas and pepper water spray, cornering and beating up protesters with police clubs and the making of arrests.
The government’s tactics infuriated those citizens who had not joined the demonstration, including those residing in overseas. The death of a 21 year old demonstrator, who tried to hang an anti extradition bill banner on the roof of a major shopping mall and falling to his death the night before the protest made matters worse. A lot of people in Hong Kong held the government responsible for this loss of a young life.
Within two days of the protests, another peaceful demonstration was organised on 16th June with only two days’ notice via social media. It ended up with two million people participating in the demonstration, with no arrests, no violence, and world-class discipline throughout the day.
Volunteers also arranged demonstrations in major cities in UK, such as London, Manchester, Sheffield, and Edinburgh in sympathy.
The protest in London was only announced two days before the event, yet about two hundred people attended the London protest.
Since the demonstrations were only organised within 2 days, everything happened organically: there was no backing from major political parties, no obvious leader of the movement, no march and not even loudspeaker. Some of the banners were drawn by hand during the protest. The organisers also made a lot of paper Origami while the protest took place reminiscent of the peaceful manner of the protest in Hong Kong.
Volunteers distributed flowers and leaflets to those joining the event, and explained the situation to bystanders by showing them the pictures of police violence towards protestors in Hong Kong a few days before.
The guest speaker, Mr Benedict Rogers from Hong Kong Watch, said he would like to pay tribute to those with creative ideas and good humour in expressing their discontent. Tribute too to the real mums in Hong Kong who came out to support the demonstrators (in contrast to the Chief Executive Carrie Lam who claimed that she wanted to suppress liberty in Hong Kong from her position as ‘mother’ to the ‘sons and daughters’, the citizens of Hong Kong). He also asked the Hong Kong government not only to retract the law, but to retract their decision to define the protests as riots.
Despite the increasing influence from Mainland China, the liberty and freedom of press in Hong Kong makes the city special. One of the slogans during the protest reads ‘only we can save our own Hong Kong’. It is not entirely true. All liberal forces, including we the Liberal Democrats stand beside you, and YOU are not alone.
* Larry Ngan is Brexit spokesperson of Chinese Liberal Democrats