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Hong Kong town hall speakers castigate Carrie Lam over police violence

Carrie Lam, then-Secretary for Administration of Hong Kong. (Voice of America/Wikimedia Commons)
September 28, 2019

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

Thousands of protesters gathered outside Hong Kong’s Queen Elizabeth Stadium on Thursday calling on the city’s leader Carrie Lam, who was meeting with randomly selected members of public inside, to meet the five demands of the pro-democracy movement.

Holding up splayed hands to indicate the number of demands they want met by Lam’s administration, the protesters also chanted “Five demands: not one less!” and obscenities at police as the meeting progressed.

The protesters’ five key demands are: the formal withdrawal of planned amendments to extradition laws; an amnesty for arrested protesters; an end to the description of protesters as rioters; an independent inquiry into police abuse of power; and fully democratic elections.

Protesters have repeatedly said they won’t give up until all five conditions are met, rejecting calls for a dialogue from chief executive Carrie Lam, who has already pledged to formally withdraw proposed amendments to the city’s extradition laws.

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Inside the stadium, which had been cordoned off by riot police equipped with tear gas earlier in the day, randomly selected speakers were given just six minutes to speak to Lam and senior officials, with many supporting growing public calls for an independent public inquiry, and blaming police violence for the ongoing stand-off between the chief executive and protesters.

One speaker said Lam herself was the biggest factor behind the escalation in clashes between protesters and police. “You must step down,” the speaker said. “Meet the five demands — not one less!”

Another took issue with Lam’s insistence that complaints against police be handled by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which has no investigative powers and relies on police investigating themselves.

“Hong Kong people have no faith in the IPCC,” the speaker said, pointing out that it is impossible to complain against police officers who don’t show their warrant numbers. “Are you willing to order police to display their warrant numbers, wherever, on their uniform, their helmets, wherever?”

A speaker identified as B39 said: “The government makes me feel that it goes its own way no matter what the citizens said.

“I support independent probe, particularly into 7.21 Yuen Long attack. Some lawmakers incite indiscriminate violence against the citizens but they still have a seat in the Legislature,” the speaker said, in comments translated and posted to Twitter by freelance journalist @XingqiSu.

Triad thug attack still angers

Attacks on protesters and passers-by alike by triad-linked thugs in white T-shirts in Yuen Long MTR station on July 21 have fueled widespread public anger, ensuring ongoing support for the protest movement.

“What took the police so long to go to Yuen Long MTR station from their station in Yuen Long?” speaker C47 was quoted by @XingqiSu as saying, while speaker B13 demanded: “Why did the police handle the situations so differently when they were [facing] the white clad mob and [when faced with] citizens? I can only call them licensed thugs.”

Lam told the meeting that her administration is largely to blame for the escalation of protests since early June, but made no concessions to the five demands, saying she had invited foreign experts to oversee investigations into police complaints by the force itself.

Critics have also hit out at her op-ed published by the New York Times on Wednesday, which made claims about the “violence” employed by “rioters” without addressing widespread criticism of police violence and failure to protect protesters from attack, not just from protesters, but also from foreign governments, journalists, international rights groups and pro-democracy lawmakers.

“I reject the use of violence to achieve any political, economic or social outcomes,” Lam wrote. “Violence is not among the actions or values that most people associate with Hong Kong, which has a reputation as a safe and welcoming city.”

“The radical actions of some rioters cannot dictate how to steer Hong Kong through its current difficulties.”

On Tuesday, London-based rights group Amnesty International called the response of the Hong Kong police force to the protesters’ civil disobedience and vandalism “outrageous” and “repressive.”

The group said that while an independent and effective investigation into police actions would be a vital first step to resolving the standoff, the protests came after a “steady erosion” of rights and freedoms in the city long before Lam put forward plans to allow extradition to mainland China.

It said both the Hong Kong government and the ruling Chinese Communist Party in Beijing had been chipping away at the special status that Hong Kong is supposed to enjoy regarding the protection of human rights for years.

The Chinese government under President Xi Jinping has increasingly interpreted the ordinary exercise of rights as a threat to Chinese sovereignty and security, the report said.