This weekend, as many as two million residents took to Hong Kong streets dressed in black, to protest a highly controversial proposed law.
Since early last week, more and more protesters have been visible each day, with demonstrators chanting demands that Chief Executive Carrie Lam resign. By Sunday, it had become a “black sea” of protesters.
“It’s much bigger today. Many more people,” one protester told reporters on Sunday. “I came today because of what happened on Wednesday, with the police violence.”
Lawyers and judges fear that if Hong Kong citizens are extradited to mainland China under the new rule, they would be “plagued by torture, forced confessions and arbitrary detention.”
The law also indirectly “would threaten the rule of law that underpins Hong Kong’s international financial status.” The island’s wealthy are already stashing their cash offshore.
When the bill came up for discussion by lawmakers, protesters insisted it be totally withdrawn. Police responded and “more than 70 people were injured by rubber bullets and tear gas.”
The anger of island citizens grew until the “most violent street protests in decades” broke out. By Sunday, along with swelling crowds, chants were “echoing off the gleaming office towers of the Asian financial hub,” Reuters reports.
According to James To, member of the rival Democratic Party, Lam “has missed golden opportunities to show repentance and recover and now has lost all credibility to govern.”
On Sunday, Lam issued an apology, recognizing that “deficiencies in the government’s work had led to substantial controversies and disputes in society.”
As Reuters notes: “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.”
An unnamed senior government official described as “close” to Ms. Lam has been telling the press that the law has been taken off the table but the Chief Executive couldn’t step down, “even if she wanted to.”
China makes that decision and Xi Jinping won’t even consider it.
“It’s not going to happen. She’s appointed by the central government, so for her to step down requires a very high level of considered discussion and deliberation at the mainland level,” the official states.
If Lam were to leave office now, all sorts of awkward “democracy” related questions would surface. “It would create more sorts of problems than it solves, at all sorts of levels,” the official explains.
The law was only temporarily suspended but is effectively dead in the water, the anonymous official assures.
“Suspending it actually means withdrawal … it would be absolute political suicide to bring it back again.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo weighed in on the situation. “We’re watching the people of Hong Kong speak about the things they value, and we’ll see what Lam’s decision is in the coming days and weeks.”