Huge demonstrations continued in Hong Kong on Friday, with the focus of activity shifting from LegCo, the city’s legislative chambers, to police headquarters.
The protesters are demanding a permanent and decisive end to the controversial extradition bill indefinitely suspended by chief executive Carrie Lam last weekend.
Student groups set a deadline of Thursday for city officials to scrap the bill. When that did not occur, demonstrators gathered at LegCo but then moved to police headquarters. In addition to scuttling the extradition bill, protesters want 24 people arrested in earlier demonstrations released without charges.
“The number of protesters outside the Legislative Council, which had dwindled since a massive march last Sunday, began picking up again Thursday afternoon,” the Associated Press noted.
The BBC found it “telling” that many demonstrators appear to have dropped one of their earlier demands: the resignation of Carrie Lam.
Mainland Chinese officials signaled during the week that the pro-Beijing executive would not be allowed to resign, given that her departure would be profoundly embarrassing and she would be difficult to replace.
Lam offered a formal public apology on Tuesday for the extradition bill debacle and the police response to demonstrators, but she was deemed insincere by many, especially because she did not bow during her press conference.
Police officials used social media to ask the demonstrators to vacate the area around police headquarters, pointing to an ambulance that had difficulty reaching the building to provide services for people inside with medical conditions.
A crowd of thousands was still gathered on the street outside police HQ as midnight local time approached, chanting “Release those who were arrested!” Some protest organizers said they planned to remain on the street until the G20 summit begins a week from Friday. Others expressed apprehension about a large riot response squad assembling to clear the area.
Groups of demonstrators were seen occupying roads and building impromptu barriers to close them. Many of the demonstrators wore masks and used tape to blind security cameras, fearful of being identified and tracked with electronic surveillance.
Hong Kong Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng on Friday became the third top official to apologize for the extradition bill, after Lam and Secretary for Security John Lee.
“Regarding the controversies and disputes in society arising from the strife over the past few months, being a team member of the government, I offer my sincere apology to all people of Hong Kong. We promise to adopt a most sincere and humble attitude to accept criticism and make improvements in serving the public,” Cheng wrote in a blog post.
Organizers continue to use social media and encrypted chat programs to coordinate their activities, advising the crowd with slogans such as “Blossom Everywhere” and “Flow Like Water,” the latter a quote from martial-arts legend Bruce Lee.