HONG KONG (Reuters) - Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets on Monday for a rally to mark the 22nd anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover from British to Chinese rule, as anger over an extradition bill plunges the city into political turmoil.
A small group of protesters stormed the Legislative Council and riot police fired pepper spray as the standoff continued into the night.
Opponents of the now-suspended extradition bill, which would allow people to be sent to mainland China for trial in courts controlled by the Communist Party, fear it is a threat to Hong Kong’s much-cherished rule of law and are demanding it be scrapped and embattled leader Carrie Lam step down.
Here are quotes from people on the streets of Hong Kong:
“How can we have three large protests in just a month? It is all because of the arrogance of our government. Even though it is understood that Hong Kong has returned to China after 1997, still, our government is not working for the people,” said university student Jespar Chan, 23.
“The government has apologised, but it is window dressing. More importantly, they never listen to people’s voice.”
“This is the end of Hong Kong. If Carrie Lam continues to be our chief executive, we only see real darkness ahead,” said a 60-year-old housewife surnamed Lau, who holds a foreign passport. “So we want to fight for the young people.
“I have friends... They don’t want their children to grow up in a just another Chinese city with no future for the next generation.”
“We used to think that police are protecting the citizens. But people are protesting peacefully. Citizens are scared,” said student Tiffany Lau, 21. “Carrie Lam still doesn’t want to listen to citizens. I think the only solution is for her to step down.”
“I came here today to support democracy in Hong Kong,” said Thomas Chen. “From an economic view, maybe this will impact the confidence of investors in Hong Kong and this would be a big impact. But I have still come today because this is for our future.”
“I come to the July 1 protests every year, but this time I came in particular because of the extradition bill,” said Elzevir Young, 59.
“This is the first time I have come for the July 1 protest. I came because Carrie Lam will not withdraw the extradition law,” said a man in his 20s, surnamed Lau.
“I won’t go to the march because there will be an escalation,” said Bonnie Fong, 26. “There will be some clashes.”
“I was around during the Umbrella protests but I did not participate, but this time around I am really worried about self-determination and freedom of expression in Hong Kong, which I have called my home all these years,” said Steve, a British lawyer who has lived and worked in Hong Kong for 30 years.
“If this bill is not completely scrapped, I will have no choice but to leave my home, Hong Kong, but this protest is not about people like me. It’s about the safety and freedom of the people in Hong Kong, and by coming out on the street like this they are espousing my concern as well.”
“It’s difficult to ignore the energy and the determination of these young people, who have decided to not accept what is being imposed on them. This is in many ways a historic moment for Hong Kong,” said Edward, an Australian citizen who has worked in the city’s financial sector for the past 10 years.
“To me, the biggest worry is how Hong Kong is losing its independence bit by bit and is getting dangerously close to a country that doesn’t value human rights and that doesn’t have an independent judicial system.”
Reporting by Alun John, Sharon Lam, Vimvam Tong, Sumeet Chatterjee and Felix Tam, Compiled by Anne Marie Roantree; Editing by Paul Tait