Hong Kong Protest Organizers Call for March on Sunday

Carol Zhong, Anna Luk and Stephen Engle
Hong Kong Protest Organizers Call for March on Sunday

(Bloomberg) -- Organizers called for people to demonstrate Sunday amid growing public concern over the current version of a controversial extradition law. One of Hong Kong’s top business groups called on Carrie Lam’s administration to “engage in meaningful dialogue with the public,” saying the mass protests show the city is wary about the bill.

Lawmakers scrapped debate for a second straight day on legislation that would allow extraditions to China, as tensions remained high between police and protesters after violent clashes on Wednesday. Overnight, police began clearing several road blocks to reopen thoroughfares closed off Wednesday as thousands of protesters converged on the Legislative Council, preventing discussions from getting underway.

U.S. President Donald Trump weighed in on the turmoil that left dozens injured, saying he was sure that Hong Kong and China would “work it out.”

Here are the latest developments (all times Hong Kong):

Hunt Call (8:31 p.m.)

U.K. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt spoke directly to Lam and “called upon the Hong Kong government to listen to the concerns of the people and to take steps to preserve Hong Kong’s rights and freedoms and its high degree of autonomy,” Mark Field, the U.K. minister of state for Asia, told Parliament on Thursday.

Field said Hong Kong’s government should “pause” its extradition law reforms and added that the Sino-British declaration “remains as valid today as it did when it was signed 30 years ago.”

Government Stance (5:30 p.m.)

Western countries are unlikely to take punitive action against Hong Kong for the government’s handling of the protests, Matthew Cheung, the city’s No. 2 official, said in an interview with Now TV. The clashes would only have limited impact on Hong Kong’s international image, the chief secretary added.

Government officials weren’t involved in the police decision to fire rubber bullets, which was the minimum level of force available at that time, Cheung said. He reiterated the administration will continue with the legislation.

More Protests (5 p.m.)

Protest organizer the Civil Human Rights Front called for a Sunday 2:30 p.m. march, saying it had applied for a permit. It would originate in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park, as did a mass demonstration last Sunday that brought hundreds of thousands of people onto the streets. It also called for a Monday assembly in Admiralty, the center of Wednesday’s clashes between demonstrators and police. In a statement, CHRF said it condemned the use of police violence and repeated previous demands for the bill’s withdrawal and Lam’s resignation.

Business Worries (3:47 p.m.)

Hong Kong’s General Chamber of Commerce, which says it represents businesses employing a third of the local workforce, said large-scale protests show the public has “serious apprehensions” about the bill. “We sincerely urge the Government to continue to listen to stakeholders and engage in meaningful dialogue with the public,” said Aron Harilela, the group’s chairman, adding that it agrees with the underlying principle of the bill.

“We call for restraint from all parties to ensure that this issue will not undermine business confidence in Hong Kong and our international reputation,” Chamber CEO Shirley Yuen added, according to a statement.

Taiwan Support (3:19 p.m.)

Hong Kong people have the right to pursue their way of life and system they want, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen told reporters on Thursday. Her government won’t accept the Hong Kong extradition bill, she added, saying it violates Taiwan’s sovereignty. The city’s leader, Lam, has repeatedly cited a grisly murder in Taiwan last year as a main reason for the extradition bill.

Teachers Speak (12:45 p.m.)

The head of the city’s largest teachers’ union pushed back against criticism over the group’s call for a school strike. Ip Kin-yuen clarified that the union’s call was directed at teachers -- not students. “We have never had such strong requests from teachers to clearly voice our stand. We want to reiterate that we are asking teachers to strike. We hope students are present in class. We urge high school students under 18 not to go to dangerous places,” he said. Turnout at protests since Sunday has been largely driven by young people, including students, many of whom are on summer break.

Meeting Cancelled (11 a.m.)

The Legislative Council will not hold a session to debate the bill Thursday, Hong Kong’s Cable TV reported, without saying where it got the information. Opposition lawmaker Alvin Yeung says the body’s chairman, Andrew Leung, would send further notice on when it would take place. Lawmakers had said earlier that it was unlikely the meeting would be held amid the continued threat of protests.

Protesters Return (10:45 a.m.)

A small crowd of protesters -- many of them young people wearing surgical masks to hide their identities -- began gathering on a covered walkway in Admiralty, the central area that was ground zero for Wednesday’s demonstrations. They appeared to be re-provisioning to stay, with water bottles, hard hats and bags of food. Police with canisters of pepper spray gathered inside the Legislative Council building nearby. Protesters were out on the streets late Wednesday night, handing out helmets and supplies and continuing to block some main roads in the financial district.

Opposition Speaks (10:12 a.m.)

Opposition lawmakers repeated calls for Lam to withdraw the bill at a briefing on Thursday. Claudia Mo, who’s been vocal throughout the protests, told reporters it looked unlikely that the legislature would re-open at 11 a.m. -- or for the rest of the day. Government headquarters next door to the council building was also shut down for the day. They also criticized Wednesday’s violence. “As we have seen yesterday, the force the police used was disproportionate,” said Wu Chi-wai, chairman of the Democratic Party. Police have defended the use of tear gas and rubber bullets, calling it a “riot” situation.

Beijing Reports (8:37 a.m.)

One of China’s most widely read state media outlets -- which had held off on reporting the Hong Kong protests -- finally weighed in. The official Xinhua News Agency said in a news story that Wednesday’s demonstrations were a “disturbance.”

How Events Unfolded: Day One of the Hong Kong Protest

China’s tightly-controlled state media has thus far dismissed the protests in support of the Hong Kong government. The state-run Global Times pointed to international interference and “collusion” in writing off last weekend’s mass demonstration in the city, in which hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets.

Debate to Resume (7:40 a.m.)

Opposition lawmakers Claudia Mo and Alvin Yeung said the Legislative Council has rescheduled debate for 11 a.m., although the body’s president, Andrew Leung, hasn’t yet announced the move. Leung had slated 66 hours of debate on dozens of amendments introduced by the opposition, proceedings that were originally expected to wrap up June 20.

Police Clear Streets (6:30 a.m.)

There were no signs of organized protests around Hong Kong government offices in Admiralty Thursday morning, save for masks, umbrellas and other things discarded during Wednesday’s demonstrations. Police had reopened several roads in the affected area including Harcourt Road and Queensway. Still, protesters could soon return, with Radio Television Hong Kong reporting that opponents of the bill have been asked to muster again at 7 a.m.

Government Complex Shut (6:08 a.m.)

The Hong Kong government said it would close Central Government Offices on Thursday and Friday, citing security concerns. Staff working there were advised not to go to the office and should work in accordance with contingency plans. All visits to the government headquarters will be postponed or canceled.

MTR Station Closed (5:55 a.m.)

Service at the metro station serving the government center and business district at the center of the protest zone in Admiralty has been suspended at the requested of the police, Radio Television Hong Kong reports.

U.S. Cautions ‘All Sides’ (2:09 a.m.)

A spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department in Washington spoke out against the proposed legislation but encouraged “all sides” to avoid violence. “People are protesting as it relates to this proposed legislation because they don’t want to be subjugated to the Chinese as it relates to some of their fundamental rights,” Morgan Ortagus, the spokeswoman, said on Wednesday in Washington. “That framework puts at risk Hong Kong’s long-established status in international affairs.”

Trump Speaks (12:18 a.m.)

Trump said he was confident that Hong Kong and China would resolve their differences over the proposed extradition law. “I hope it all works out for China and for Hong Kong,” Trump said Wednesday during a meeting with Polish President Andrzej Duda at the White House. “I’m sure they’ll be able to work it out.”

Protest Injuries (12:14 a.m.)

Hong Kong’s Hospital Authority confirmed that 72 people have been injured in the protests. At least 50 men and 22 women are being treated in seven public hospitals, according to a spokesperson.

Lam Urges Order (8:35 p.m., Wednesday)

In a brief video statement, the city’s leader urged a return to order. “I hope society will return to order quickly and no one gets hurts in riots again. I urge everyone who loves this place to stay away from violence,” she said, sounding resolute. “I believe Hong Kong as a civilized society, can use peaceful and rational methods to solve any problems.

--With assistance from Justin Sink, Kelly Belknap, Huang Zhe, Colin Keatinge, Daniel Ten Kate, Dominic Lau, Ryan Lovdahl, Fion Li, Chris Kay and Simon Lee.

To contact the reporters on this story: Carol Zhong in Hong Kong at yzhong71@bloomberg.net;Anna Luk in Hong Kong at aluk9@bloomberg.net;Stephen Engle in Beijing at sengle1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Brendan Scott at bscott66@bloomberg.net, Karen Leigh

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.