Thousands converge on Hong Kong parliament in fresh anti-government action

Protesters gather on a driveway near the police headquarters in Hong Kong on June 21, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 21 June 2019

Thousands converge on Hong Kong parliament in fresh anti-government action

  • The protest comes after the government refused to meet the demands of demonstrators who have marched in their millions to oppose a bill that would allow extraditions to the Chinese mainland
  • After converging at Hong Kong’s main government complex before rush hour, hundreds of protesters poured onto Harcourt Road outside the parliament building

Thousands of black-clad protesters blocked a highway outside Hong Kong’s parliament Friday, demanding the resignation of the city’s pro-Beijing leader over a controversial extradition proposal that has sparked the territory’s biggest political crisis in decades.

The protest comes after the government refused to meet the demands of demonstrators who have marched in their millions to oppose a bill that would allow extraditions to the Chinese mainland.

The movement has morphed into a larger rebuke of Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s administration.

Opposition groups, after putting on the biggest political rallies in Hong Kong’s history, have called for the complete withdrawal of the legislation and for Lam to step down.

After converging at Hong Kong’s main government complex before rush hour, hundreds of protesters -- many wearing face masks and chanting anti-government slogans -- poured onto Harcourt Road outside the parliament building, blocking the major artery completely before allowing some vehicles to trickle through.

Protesters, who have been largely leaderless during the anti-government rallies, were encouraged to “hold picnics” outside the legislature.

Many sat with umbrellas unfurled to block the sun, others sprayed water to keep them cool in the heat. Some found shade under a bridge near the complex.

“Physically and mentally, I’m really tired. But there’s no other way. As a Hong Konger you can’t not come out,” said 21-year-old student Cheung Po Lam.

“I’m very dissatisfied with... (the government’s) attitude,” he added.

Some at the government complex brought placards asking the police not to shoot at them, in a reference to sporadic violence last week between security officials and protesters.

In addition to ousting Lam and cancelling the extradition bill, protesters also want the release of those detained during those clashes, and an investigation into allegations of police brutality.

“The government still hasn’t responded to our demands, After so many days... they are all talking rubbish and shifting the blame on one another,” protester Poyee Chan, 28, told AFP.

“So I feel we need to come out and tell them: we citizens won’t accept such fake responses.”

‘Blossom everywhere’

The call for Friday’s protest was made by the city’s student unions, as well as informal organisers over social media and messaging apps like Telegram.

“Blossom everywhere,” read a statement circulated Thursday in a Telegram chat group.

“There are many ways to participate. Think carefully about your own ways to show your love to Hong Kong. June 21 is not the end of the fight, there will be more in the coming days.”

The groups had also recommended a mass strike, but it was not immediately clear which business or professional groups would support such a call.

Lam has so far defied calls to step down, and while she has apologised and suspended the bill indefinitely, it has failed to quell anger.

Administrative offices at the complex were closed on Friday “due to security considerations”.

Although Hong Kong was returned from British to Chinese rule in 1997, it is still administered separately under an arrangement known as “One country, two systems”.

The city enjoys freedoms unseen on the mainland but many residents have been alarmed in recent years by what they feel is a tighter grip by Beijing.

Opponents of the extradition bill fear it will ensnare the people of Hong Kong in mainland China’s opaque and politicised justice system, and also give Beijing a tool to target its critics based in the semi-autonomous territory.

The Chinese government had supported the extradition proposal, and accused protest organisers of colluding with Western governments. It dismissed expressions of support for the Hong Kong opposition as interference in the city -- and China’s -- internal affairs.

But Beijing said after the bill’s suspension that it respected and understood the decision.


Hague hearing offers ray of hope to Bangladesh’s Rohingya

Updated 10 December 2019

Hague hearing offers ray of hope to Bangladesh’s Rohingya

  • International Court of Justice seeks to address atrocities committed by Myanmar

DHAKA: Several members of the Rohingya community in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar expressed optimism on Monday that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) would rule in their favor once it began its three-day hearing against Myanmar on Tuesday.

The case was filed by Gambia on behalf of all Muslim nations from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) with the ICJ over the alleged persecution of the Rohingya by the Myanmar military.

On Nov. 18, the court decided to hold the hearings from Dec.10 to 12. Gambia’s justice minister will lead his country during the hearings.

Both Canada and Bangladesh have been supporting Gambia by providing different data and information regarding the atrocities against the Rohingya.

Myanmar’s state councillor and its de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has already reached  the Netherlands to lead the defense lawyers on behalf of her country at the ICJ.

Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque will remain present at the courtroom to witness the process.

He will lead a 20-member team, comprising government officials and civil society representatives.

Rohingya at Cox’s Bazar are highly optimistic of securing justice at the ICJ.

“We think justice will be ensured because all international human rights groups, different UN organizations and the international community have got evidence of the persecution on the Rohingya. All of them have visited the refugee camps many times and listened to the plight of the Rohingya,” Sawyed Ullah, a community leader from Jamtoli, told Arab News.

“Also, we have strong evidences of atrocities committed by the Myanmar government to root out the Rohingya from their birth place, Rakhine,” Ullah added.

“Without ensuring accountability, there will not be any safety and justice in Rakhine. Once the accountability is restored,  all of us will be able to go back home.”

Ramjan Ali, another refugee from the Kutupalang camp, said: “Myanmar’s government has forcibly displaced the Rohingya from their own land and that compelled us to shelter here at the refugee camps. Isn’t it enough evidence to justify our allegations against the Myanmar government?”

Ramjan Ali added: “Still the situation in Rakhine is very bad as we receive information from our relatives over there. We need protection from the international forces before any repatriation, and the ICJ’s decision will be helpful for us in this regard.”

Rohingya human rights activist Nay San Lwin, co-founder of the German-based Free Rohingya Coalition described the ICJ’s move as historic.

“It is first ever since we are persecuted. We have been seeking for justice since very long time,” Lwin told Arab News, adding that “finally the case is now at the world court and although it will take several years we are now excited for provisional measures from the court.”

Lwin, along with some 200 Rohingya rights activists from around the world, is set to hold a protest rally at the Hague from Dec. 11 during the ICJ’s hearing.

“We are expecting very much from the ICJ. Regardless whether Myanmar follows the decisions of the court this will have a huge impact. There won’t be any other justice mechanisms if this international court of justice can’t ensure the justice for us,” added Lwin.

Expressing his frustration on the repatriation process, Lwin said that the Myanmar government still had a “genocidal policy” on the Rohingya.

“I don’t think repatriation of the Rohingya will take place soon unless the government is considering to fulfill our demands,” he said.

The ICJ’s final decision will hold strong significance as any decisions taken by the ICJ are binding on member states.

Both Gambia and Myanmar are signatories of the Genocide Convention.