Massive march against extradition law: Organizers claim 130,000 marchers, police estimate a peak of 22,800

An estimated 130,000 people joined a protest yesterday against a law amendment that would see people sent for trial to the mainland and Taiwan.

Cindy Wan and Stella Wong

Monday, April 29, 2019

An estimated 130,000 people joined a protest yesterday against a law amendment that would see people sent for trial to the mainland and Taiwan. But police said only 22,800 were in the march at its peak.

The turnout, estimated by organizers the Civil Human Rights Front, was the highest for any protest since Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor assumed office in 2017.

Figo Chan Ho-wun, the group's vice convener, said people took to the streets to say no to the government. "We don't want to send people to countries where they will be slaughtered by their governments," he said.

The group has threatened to surround Legco if the government does not scrap the bill, with details of the action to be announced in mid-May.

The march from Causeway Bay to the government headquarters in Admiralty started at 3.40pm - 20 minutes earlier than the official starting time at 4pm - because the protest zone on East Point Road was full.

Protesters, chanting slogans and holding up banners reading "No China Rendition," called on Lam and Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu to step down.

Convicted Occupy leaders Chu Yiu-ming, who was given a suspended sentence for his part in the movement, and former student leader Tommy Cheung Sau-yin who was ordered to carry out 200 hours of community service, attended the protest. Civic Party lawmaker Tanya Chan, whose sentencing was adjourned while she seeks treatment for a brain tumor, also turned up.

Members of the Reclaiming Social Work Movement wore masks showing the face of jailed lawmaker Shiu Ka-chun to show they were with him in spirit.

Many protesters brought their children, some as young as four.

Human rights lawyer Michael Vidler, who attended with his wife and children, said he did not trust that the SAR government would protect Hongkongers from being extradited to the mainland for political causes.

"You don't need to have committed a criminal offense in China to be subject to the full force of the law," he said. "You may only need to have spoken out, or involved in commercial disputes with somebody who's well connected with the local government or the central government to be extradited to China."

Creative props were used in the protest including a guillotine which described the law as a killing machine.

Artist Kacey Wong made a prison cell on wheels, with himself acting as a mainland law enforcer.

Commentator Bruce Lui Ping-kuen, senior lecturer of Hong Kong Baptist University's journalism department, said the amendment would be a huge blow to the Hong Kong media.

"In the past, journalists felt greatly relieved on getting back into Hong Kong after reporting in China. In the future they can be extradited to the mainland at anytime even after returning to Hong Kong."

He said more people joined the protest yesterday than the one last month in which 12,000 people participated more was known about the amendment.

"Of course the conviction of the nine Occupy leaders fueled the issue, but it just helped as a catalyst. People know that the judicial measure is untrustworthy," Lui said.

The committee to discuss the amendment bill will have its second meeting tomorrow. It is understood that the pro-democracy camp will use every means to delay the election of a chairman and vice chairman in the hope of stopping the bill from being passed before the summer break.

Commenting on the protest, a government spokesman said the amendment bill aims to deal with a case of a Hongkonger who allegedly killed his girlfriend in Taiwan last year, as well as to plug the loopholes in Hong Kong's overall mechanism in extradition and juridical assistance.

"The Taiwan murder case has clearly shown that serious crimes can happen in any place and at any time. It is just a question who the unfortunate victim may be. Hence, we have to plug the loopholes in the current mechanisms as quickly as possible," he said.

The government "understands that there are different views in the community," but hopes Legco's bills committee can start its work as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, the former owner of Causeway Bay Books, Lam Wing-kee, left Hong Kong for Taiwan last Thursday, fearing extradition to the mainland after the amendment is passed.