It is by all means a day to remember in Hong Kong history.
Witnessing the June 9 anti-extradition bill rally, there would hardly be anyone who hasn’t been moved by the sight of hundreds of thousands marching through the streets and calling for preservation of Hong Kong’s autonomy and rule of law.
Organizers estimated that as many as 1.03 million people took part in the demonstration which took place on the last day of a long holiday weekend.
The police claimed the turnout was only 240,000, but their estimate was clearly an understated figure, judging from video footage showing throngs of citizens clogging the roads as they made their way toward Tamar, permeating the air with chants of democracy and freedoms.
Several hours after the landmark protest, many images linger in the mind.
Among the unforgettable scenes, buses were filled with people in white. Elsewhere, tens of thousands lined up at the Star Ferry pier in Tsim Sha Tsui to make their way to Hong Kong Island. And five MTR stations said they were unable to handle any more passengers.
On a hot afternoon, Hongkongers filled the streets of Causeway Bay and Hennessy Road as they walked from Victoria Park to government headquarters to convey to the Carrie Lam administration, and its backers in Beijing, how angry the people are against proposed extradition law changes.
As the government’s planned amendments would allow the transfer of “fugitives” to mainland China for trials, there are deep worries that Hong Kong’s judicial independence and autonomy are at risk.
Personally, having missed out on the July 1 demonstration previously in 2003 against national security legislation, I was clear this time that I would mark my presence at the Sunday march. Along with a group of high-school classmates, I reached the venue early, which turned out to be a smart decision in hindsight.
Even so, we were stuck in Victoria Park for two hours before we could join the march because the police blocked some entry points due to the massive crowds.
Being trapped in Hong Kong’s biggest park was a bad experience but luckily the crowd behaved because they knew what they were here for.
Meanwhile, remembering the 2003 protest, we cannot but help wonder why Hong Kong seems to be getting caught in similar situations despite the passage of years.
Beijing is behind the proposed extradition law that was initiated by Chief Executive Carrie Lam, just like it was the main force behind the national security law push in 2003.
The massive uproar in 2003 prompted authorities to backtrack and put the plan on the backburner, but it is unlikely that Beijing would concede this time around on the extradition law despite the million-strong protesters.
Lam said she has heard the voice of Hong Kong people, who showed their lack of trust in China amid the difference in legal systems. Still, she will continue to push the bill, putting it to the Legco for second reading this Wednesday.
Looks like the long protest march, and the six-hour walk for many, will get an encore in July. And who knows how many more will join that event!
If there is one particular message from yesterday’s rally, it is that Hong Kong people feel they have no option but to take to the streets, despite the mixed results of previous mass-protests, to try and defend the core values and causes they cherish.
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