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Hong Kong hunger strikers vow to keep going until extradition law withdrawn

A June 9 demonstration, at Central Government Complex (Hong Kong), capturing Harcourt Road, Admiralty. The confrontation. (Hf9631/Wikimedia Commons)
July 11, 2019

This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.

Hunger strikers in Hong Kong on Wednesday vowed to continue to refuse food indefinitely unless the government withdraws planned legal amendments allow renditions to mainland China.

The hunger strikers, who include members of religious groups, have been fasting in relays for a week on a footbridge near government headquarters in Admiralty district.

This hunger strike was initiated by pastor Roy Chan at Queensway Centre on July 3 at 10.00 a.m., and five people are currently still participating, according to government broadcaster RTHK.

However, it was unclear how long each of the individuals has gone without food.

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Chan said he began the hunger strike to stop young people from getting into trouble with “illegal acts” during the anti-extradition protests, citing three suicides of young people who died after putting up anti-extradition slogans in public.

“We should let the public and young people know that there is a group of people who are willing to ruin their health and their lives in order to protest and fight,” Chan said at the time.

“We don’t advocate suicide; we don’t advocate self-destruction … Fight this, and don’t give up your lives so easily,” he said.

Dissatisfied young people

Social worker Leung Kam-tou, 62, said he is participating to encourage a more conciliatory approach from the administration of chief executive Carrie Lam, which has so far refused to accede to protesters’ demands to formally axe the planned amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance, to release all those arrested during the protests, and to start an independent public inquiry into police violence, especially on June 12.

“This shouldn’t be about pursuing suspects now, but about whether the government has managed to resolve the issue, which is the dissatisfaction of young people, and to resolve the stand-off between young people and the government,” Leung told RFA.

“If they don’t deal with it, but only continue to condemn it, they will push more young people [into protests] because they feel they are at a dead end,” he said.

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“They are playing with the futures of young people in exchange for political gains. I think it is very unethical,” he said.

Former colonial-era second-in-command Anson Chan said Lam’s claim on Tuesday that the extradition bill is “dead” hasn’t mollified anti-extradition protesters.

“On the one hand, the chief executive wants the return of public order, and yet she is doing everything she can to further exacerbate tensions,” Chan said. “The easiest thing would be something she could do all by herself: just pronounce the word ‘withdraw’ as soon as possible.”

“If she has said that the amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance are dead, then why can’t she say they are withdrawn?” she said. “Why must she be so belligerent to the people of Hong Kong?”

Amnesty precedents

Chan also cited a precedent for government-granted amnesties in HongKong’s colonial past ahead of the founding of the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

Chan told RTHK that Lam is refusing to withdraw the bill out of”stubbornness,” and also called for a public inquiry into the government’s and police force’s handling of the crisis.

“The police, actually 2,000 of them, surrounded the ICAC building demanding the government draw a line” before enacting the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance bill, she told the station.

“After consideration, the then governor, Lord MacLehose, actually granted an amnesty” for corrupt police officers, she said.

Students, march organizers and pro-democracy lawmakers have all rejected Lam’s attempt at initiating discussions on Tuesday, demanding that she first declare an amnesty for all those arrested in connection with recent protests, drop allegations of “rioting” used by police and some officials to describe the events of June 12, and formally withdraw the planned amendments before the end of the current LegCo term in 2020, rather than just claiming that they will automatically lapse.

Protesters also want an independent public inquiry into police use of tear gas, rubber and textile bullets, pepper spray and batons during the anti-extradition campaign, especially during protests on June 12.

Lam has said calls for an amnesty for those arrested were “not acceptable,” because the decision whether or not prosecute should be taken independently of political considerations, and said that, instead of an independent inquiry, a “fact-finding study” would be carried out by the city’s police complaints body, which analysts say has no investigatory powers and has to rely on the police investigating themselves.

She also insisted that a minority had engaged in “violent acts,” in an apparent reference to protesters smashing their way into LegCo and spray-painting surveillance cameras and anti extradition graffiti on government property, as opposed to attacks on people.

The amendments are widely seen as a threat to Hong Kong’s way of life, which was supposed to have been protected by the “one country, two systems” framework under which the former British colony was handed back to China in 1997.

If they become law, the city could lose its status as a separate legal jurisdiction and trading entity, while journalists, visitors, rights activists, dissidents, democratic politicians, and members of the business community could be targeted for words and actions deemed illegal by Chinese officials, and extradited to face trial in Chinese courts, which are directly controlled by the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

Reported by Tam Siu-yin, Tseng Yat-yiu and Lau Siu-fung for RFA’s Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.