Thousands converge on Hong Kong parliament in fresh anti-govt demo

Thousands converge on Hong Kong parliament in fresh anti-govt demo
Highlights

Thousands of black-clad protesters blocked a highway outside Hong Kong's parliament Friday, demanding the resignation of the city's pro-Beijing leader over a controversial extradition proposal that has sparked the territory's biggest political crisis in decades.

Hong Kong: Thousands of black-clad protesters blocked a highway outside Hong Kong's parliament Friday, demanding the resignation of the city's pro-Beijing leader over a controversial extradition proposal that has sparked the territory's biggest political crisis in decades.

The protest comes after the government refused to meet the demands of demonstrators who have marched in their millions to oppose a bill that would allow extraditions to the Chinese mainland. The movement has morphed into a larger rebuke of Chief Executive Carrie Lam's administration. Opposition groups, after putting on the biggest political rallies in Hong Kong's history, have called for the complete withdrawal of the legislation and for Lam to step down.

After converging at Hong Kong's main government complex before rush hour, hundreds of protesters -- many wearing face masks and chanting anti-government slogans -- poured onto Harcourt Road outside the parliament building, blocking the major artery completely before allowing some vehicles to trickle through. Protesters, who have been largely leaderless during the anti-government rallies, were encouraged to "hold picnics" outside the legislature. Many sat with umbrellas unfurled to block the sun, others sprayed water to keep them cool in the heat. Some found shade under a bridge near the complex.

"Physically and mentally, I'm really tired. But there's no other way. As a Hong Konger you can't not come out," said 21-year-old student Cheung Po Lam. "I'm very dissatisfied with... (the government's) attitude," he added. Some at the government complex brought placards asking the police not to shoot at them, in a reference to sporadic violence last week between security officials and protesters. In addition to ousting Lam and cancelling the extradition bill, protesters also want the release of those detained during those clashes, and an investigation into allegations of police brutality.

"The government still hasn't responded to our demands, After so many days... they are all talking rubbish and shifting the blame on one another," protester Poyee Chan, 28, told AFP. "So I feel we need to come out and tell them: we citizens won't accept such fake responses." The call for Friday's protest was made by the city's student unions, as well as informal organisers over social media and messaging apps like Telegram. "Blossom everywhere," read a statement circulated Thursday in a Telegram chat group.

"There are many ways to participate. Think carefully about your own ways to show your love to Hong Kong. June 21 is not the end of the fight, there will be more in the coming days." The groups had also recommended a mass strike, but it was not immediately clear which business or professional groups would support such a call. Lam has so far defied calls to step down, and while she has apologised and suspended the bill indefinitely, it has failed to quell anger. Administrative offices at the complex were closed on Friday "due to security considerations".

Although Hong Kong was returned from British to Chinese rule in 1997, it is still administered separately under an arrangement known as "One country, two systems". The city enjoys freedoms unseen on the mainland but many residents have been alarmed in recent years by what they feel is a tighter grip by Beijing. Opponents of the extradition bill fear it will ensnare the people of Hong Kong in mainland China's opaque and politicised justice system, and also give Beijing a tool to target its critics based in the semi-autonomous territory. The Chinese government had supported the extradition proposal, and accused protest organisers of colluding with Western governments.

It dismissed expressions of support for the Hong Kong opposition as interference in the city -- and China's -- internal affairs. But Beijing said after the bill's suspension that it respected and understood the decision.

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