Hong Kong leader says sorry as protesters insist she quits
17 June, 2019, 9:01 am
HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam apologized to its people on Sunday as an estimated 1 million-plus black-clad protesters insisted that she resign over her handling of a bill that would allow citizens to be sent to mainland China for trial.
Organizers said almost 2 million turned out on Sunday to demand that chief executive Lam step down in what is becoming the most significant challenge to China’s relationship with the territory since it was handed back by Britain 22 years ago.
Sunday’s demonstration came in spite of Lam indefinitely delaying – though not withdrawing – the bill on Saturday in a dramatic climbdown that threw into question her ability to continue to lead the city.
On Sunday, she apologized for the way the government had handled the draft law, which had been scheduled for debate last Wednesday, but gave no further insight into its fate.
Organizers pressed ahead with the protest to demand the bill’s full withdrawal, as well as to mark their anger at the way police handled a demonstration against it on Wednesday, when more than 70 people were injured by rubber bullets and tear gas.
Some of Sunday’s marchers held signs saying, “Do not shoot, we are HongKonger.”
Police said the demonstration reached 338,000 at its peak. Organizers and police have routinely produced vastly different estimates at recent demonstrations.
Organizers estimated a protest the week before drew 1 million while police said 240,000.
“It’s much bigger today. Many more people,” said one protester who gave her name as Ms Wong. “I came today because of what happened on Wednesday, with the police violence.”
Loud cheers rang out when activists called through loud hailers for Lam’s resignation and the cry “step down” echoed through the streets.
“(An) apology is not enough,” said demonstrator Victor Li, 19.
‘SHORTING’ CARRIE LAM
The protests have plunged Hong Kong into political crisis, heaping pressure on Lam’s administration and her official backers in Beijing.
Critics say the planned extradition law could threaten Hong Kong’s rule of law and its international reputation as an Asian financial hub. Some Hong Kong tycoons have already started moving personal wealth offshore.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said President Trump would raise the issue of Hong Kong human rights at a potential meeting with president Xi Jinping at the G20 summit in Japan this month.
In a blog post published on Sunday, Hong Kong Financial Secretary Paul Chan sought to play down the impact of the protests.