The several groups organizing pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong condemned Chief Executive Carrie Lam for taking months to announce the full withdrawal of a controversial extradition bill on Wednesday, noting that killing the bill was only one of the movement’s five demands.
Lam announced that the city’s executive office would file a motion with the Legislative Council to withdraw the bill early Wednesday after refusing to do so since the protests began in June. Lam also announced the government would “support” an already existing police oversight agency and begin “direct dialogue with the community,” which she did not elaborate on.
The bill that sparked the protests would have allowed China to extradite anyone present in Hong Kong, not just Hong Kong residents, if accused of violating the draconian laws of the Communist Party. The bill would have been a violation of the “One Country, Two Systems” policy that prevents Beijing from enforcing its laws in Hong Kong, as breaking Chinese law would have consequences on Hong Kong soil.
In addition to the full withdrawal of the bill, the Hong Kong protest movement is demanding an independent inquiry on police brutality against protesters, freedom for Hong Kong’s political prisoners, the direct popular election of all lawmakers, and a government apology for calling the June 12 orderly protest a “riot.”
Protesters appeared not to abandon the other four demands in light of the death of the extradition bill on Wednesday.
“Carrie’s response comes too late and too little, failing to address our 5 demands,” Demosisto, one of the major pro-democracy organizations backing the protests, said in a statement on its Twitter page on Wednesday.
Carrie’s response comes too late and too little, failing to address our 5 demands. Protests of the past three months have left irreversible scar on #HongKong, especially the esculating #PoliceBrutality. #Democracy, right here and right now, is the only way out.
Photo: Next Plus pic.twitter.com/uJz7nqVla1
— Demosistō 香港眾志 (@demosisto) September 4, 2019
The Civil Human Rights Front, another organization that has taken the lead is ensuring that protests have legal permits and otherwise remain peaceful and orderly, published a scathing rejection of Lam’s remarks on Facebook alongside a poster reading in English, “Five Demands Not One Less.”
“Ignoring the people’s insistence on [their] five big demands is a serious political mistake, and it does not help the situation,” the Civil Human Rights Front asserted in its statement, calling the government “arrogant” and expressing suspicion that Lam’s new proposals are a “PR game” meant to take international pressure off the Hong Kong government.
“In addition, this entire political storm, created by the government of Carrie Lam, has had no consequences for the people in leadership so far,” the group noted. “Yet standing at the front of the [movement], young people defending their home have been founded up again and again. The consequences of even one of these young people being charged with rioting, their bodies beaten, is not one we are willing to accept.”
“Five big demands! Not one less!” the post ends.
Comments responding to the most are largely composed of Hong Kong residents replying with the same slogan. Observers monitoring Facebook activity during Lam’s Wednesday speech noted that pro-democracy users flooded the government’s feed with the same message.
— Vivienne Chow (@VivienneChow) September 4, 2019
Bonnie Leung, the co-convener of the Civil Human Rights Front, similarly told CBS journalist Ramy Inocencio that she did not accept Lam’s walkback as the end of the movement, saying she was “glad [the bill] is finally done, but it’s not sufficient.”
Demosisto Secretary-General Joshua Wong issued his own separate statement on Twitter following Lam’s announcement, echoing the group’s official stance.
“Too little and too late now – Carrie Lam’s response comes after 7 lives sacrificed, more than 1,200 protestors arrested, in which many are mistreated in police station [sic],” he wrote. “We urge the world too to alert this tactic and not to be deceived by HK and Beijing Govt. They have conceded nothing in fact, and a full-scale clampdown is on the way.”
“In short, Carrie Lam’s repeated failure in understanding the situation has made this announcement completely out of touch – She needs to address to ALL Five Demands: STOP PROSECUTION, STOP CALLING US RIOTERS, INDEPENDENT INQUIRY OF POLICE and FREE ELECTION!” Wong concluded.
Agnes Chow, another Demosisto activist, wrote a statement in Japanese saying she was “not pleased” by the extradition bill withdrawal.
“During the last three months, 8 people committed suicide. Three people lost sight due to police violence,” she wrote. “Over 1,000 people were arrested, over 100 people were indicted. There are countless injured people.”
“I will continue to fight,” Chow promised.
Chow and Wong, both 22 years old, were among five high-profile activists arrested in a police sweep last week, charged with “inciting … unauthorized assembly.” Others arrested on the same day included student leader Althea Suen, lawmaker Cheng Chung-tai, and Hong Kong National Party leader Andy Chan.
In addition to vowing more protest actions, reaction in Hong Kong to the bill withdrawal was cautious, as many expected a crackdown to follow Lam’s speech. Hong Kong lawmaker Ray Chan expressed concern police brutality would worsen now that the government announced it would withdraw the bill.
We must be cautious. Now, Carrie Lam could use the bill’s withdrawal as a pretext to frame protesters as perpetrators of violence. As the bill is withdrawn, the logic goes, then any ongoing protests must be serving ulterior motives, #HongKong independence or a color revolution.
— Ray Chan (@ray_slowbeat) September 4, 2019
Others noted that the text of the speech does not mean the legislature would withdraw the bill – as the head of Hong Kong’s executive branch, Lam does not actually have the power to withdraw the bill.
“The Secretary for Security will move a motion according to the Rules of Procedure when the Legislative Council resumes,” Lam announced. If they choose to, lawmakers have the power to reject the motion.