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2M at Hong Kong protest want leader out despite extradition apology

By
Allen Cone
Hong Kong citizens participate in a protest on the streets of downtown Hong Kong on Sunday against an extradition to mainland China bill proposed by the pro-Beijing government. On Saturday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced the legislation bill has been suspended in the legislature. Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI
Hong Kong citizens participate in a protest on the streets of downtown Hong Kong on Sunday against an extradition to mainland China bill proposed by the pro-Beijing government. On Saturday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced the legislation bill has been suspended in the legislature. Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

June 16 (UPI) -- Around two million people protested in Hong Kong on Sunday, seeking the ouster of the leader's plan to extradite offenders to China though the bill was suspended and she apologized.

Organizers of Civil Human Rights Front estimated the turnout was double the 1 million who took to the streets seven days earlier to demonstrate against the plan. The city of seven million is the world's fourth-most densely populated region.

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Protesters spilled into other roadways from the official route of the march, Bloomberg reported.

At 7:30 p.m., five hours after the march's start, thousands were gathering at the city's Victoria Park to begin the nearly 2-mile walk to the Legislative Council building in the Admiralty district.

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Protesters said they will continue taking to the streets until the bill is completely withdrawn -- rather than being suspended as announced Saturday. They also are demanding Chief Executive Carrie Lam's resignation, want the arrested protesters released and all charges withdrawn, and the protests not labeled as a "riot."

"Should the government refuse to respond, only more Hong Kongers will strike tomorrow," CHRF said said.

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After the protest began, a government spokesman issued a statement attributed to Lam that acknowledged "deficiencies in the government's work had led to substantial controversies and disputes in society, causing disappointment and grief among the people."

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With this in mind, "the chief executive apologized to the people of Hong Kong and pledged to adopt a most sincere and humble attitude to accept criticisms and make improvements in serving the public."

Lam took note of the strong sentiments of residents, fearing the bill could be used to extradite residents to mainland China for political or inadvertent business offenses.

"The chief executive clearly heard the views expressed in a peaceful and rational manner," according to the statement. "She acknowledged that this embodied the spirit of Hong Kong as a civilized, free, open and pluralistic society that values mutual respect, harmony and diversity. The government also respects and treasures these core values of Hong Kong.

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"Having regard to the strong and different views in society, the government has suspended the legislative amendment exercise at the full Legislative Council with a view to restoring calmness in society as soon as possible and avoiding any injuries to any persons. The government reiterated that there is no timetable for restarting the process. "

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Protester Venus Leung, a 19-year-old student, told Bloomberg "nothing Carrie Lam can do to win back our hearts. She can only step down."

People wore black during the protest.

And many carried white flowers to honor a man who died after falling from a building Saturday while holding banners opposing the extradition bill.

"We buy the white flower to hope that he can rest in peace," said 23-year-old Michael, who works in concessions and only gave his first name. Like many others around him, he carried a sign saying "Freedom is Not Free."

A crowd chanted the Cantonese word for "Retract!" in a message to Lam to permanently scrap the bill. One cafe along the route posted a sign to its front window: "Everyone keep up the hard work ... if you are tired, come in and we'll give you a glass of water."

A large number of protesters sang "Do You Hear The People Sing?," a song from musical Les Miserables and the anthem of Hong Kong protests in 2014.

One bright yellow sign carried by a protesterread: "HK police force, you should be ashamed to call yourself Hongkongers." Another: "Salute to HK young people."

But older people also turned out.

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Chik Kim Ping, 65 and her husband Tse, 70, traveled from the New Territories in the north of the city to protest against the extradition bill.

"It's important for us to do this for our children," Chik Kim Ping told CNN. "We are old and don't have much time left. We won't see what's going to happen in 2047 but our children will."

In 2047, Hong Kong fully becomes part of China.

Eleven people were arrested during protests Wednesday when up to 5,000 riot police fired 150 rounds of tear gas, rubber bullets and bean bag rounds. Last Sunday's protests were more peaceful.

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