Hong Kong's government described recent protest rallies as "riots" after one million people marched against the China extradition bill on June 9, and the "Occupy Admiralty" rally on June 12. Under public pressure, Hong Kong Chief executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥) announced the government would suspend the bill, but not withdraw it. The public was furious, leading a record two million people to attend the scheduled June 16 rally.
After the march, protesters surrounded the Chief Executive and Legislative Council buildings. By 7pm, the roads were full of people, including areas near the Lennon Wall, Tamar Park and surrounding overpasses. People raised their hands to clap and cheer each other on, and shouted slogans like "withdraw the extradition bill" and "Carrie Lam step down!"
Hong Kong after June 16, is a new Hong Kong. The fatigue and depression that set in after the Umbrella Movement has dissipated amid these new cries for justice. Hong Kong's social movements have once again opened up a whole new way of thinking: no big platform, but plenty of fellow travellers. Through tacit and peaceful occupation of the streets to communicate with the government, their actions speak louder than words. The past two years have not been peaceful, and the future of Hong Kong is back in the hands of its people.
It wasn't just the images of two million protesters that were so striking, it was the little details that gave the rally a heartfelt character. In their own ways, people were participating in a struggle between the individual and the authoritarian state. They brought new ideas, weary bodies, and an indefatigable hope. Everyone at that march was a hero of Hong Kong, and everyone deserves to be remembered.
We talked to a number of Hong Kongers on June 16. Who are they? Why did they come out? What do they want to say to the government? Wearing black clothes and carrying white flowers, history will remember these courageous Hong Kongers, who for one night, became bright stars in the night sky.
1. Ms. Cheung (張小姐)──28 years old
I want to say, without withdrawal, we won't retreat.
Most of the people you meet online, you'll never meet in the flesh. I brought one or two thousand pages of white paper from home, none of which I went out of my way to get. I planned to give them out after folding them into a flower, but I decided I would teach people how to fold the flowers themselves. Somebody sacrificed their life for Hong Kong's freedom last night, and I don't want to lose contact with anybody.
2. Ms. Mok (莫小姐), Mr. Chung (鍾先生) & Mr. Tsp (曹先生) ──Around 30 Years old
I want to say, register to vote, it'll change your life.
I could've stayed at home and played video games. But if you never leave the house, and you just know how to game, then the candidates you like will never get enough votes on election day. There's no long game in that. As we were handing out voter information, a lady about 40 or 50 years old told us she just recently started paying attention to Hong Kong's politics; she realized the only way to get rid of the pro-Beijing camp was through the ballot box.
We also had a group of twenty-something Taiwanese fly to Hong Kong just to support us. we're so touched to know that the world is paying attention to what's happening here.
I only started giving out voter information two days ago, and I asked my friends to lend a hand. People were already concerned after the events of the Umbrella Movement, but it's hard to ignore what's happened here the past few days. If you didn't come out on Wednesday (June 12) and you don't come out today (June 16), there won't be another chance to come out.
3. Mrs. Wong (王小姐) ──54 Years old
I want to say, it breaks my heart to see what the government did, and I'm sorry we let down our young people. It's us, the adults, that didn't do enough.
I don't want to be identified because I'm worried about my job. I'm not satisfied with this extradition bill; the consultation process was crude, and totally unlike the legislative process we all know about. After the people voiced their opinion on June 12, they were all labeled rioters, and I was really unhappy about that. I took part in that rally, and I understand the police are doing their jobs, and that some of my protestor friends were quite rude, but is that any reason for the police to use those kind of tactics?
My 24 year old daughter and I decided on this sign board message together: "My child is not a rioter. Sincerely, a Hong Kong mother." She's not in Hong Kong right now, but she's paying attention to events here, and participated in local activities in the past.
4. Mr. Wong (王先生) ──30 Years old
I want to say, the government's response to this whole thing is heartbreaking.
I'm an engineer; I work in Macau on weekdays, and come back to Hong Kong on the weekends. This is the helmet I wear for work. Last night, I printed out this sticker of the protester who jumped to his death on June 15, and stuck it on my helmet.
On Wednesday June 12, I made a special trip to Hong Kong to take part in the rally. Carrie Lam didn't have anything to say when a million people took to the streets, and the government pushed for a second reading. They're still not listening to the people this week either. I feel terrible that someone died because of all this. When you're forced into this kind of position, it's best to find some fellow travellers who support you.
5. Henry──26 Years old
I want to say, there's a sense of belonging here.
I was born and brought up in Hong Kong, and now I'm unemployed. I think this kind of peaceful demonstration is really surprising for people. I don't like violent confrontation, but it happens when people are afraid. People are afraid of China and its utter lies; they know China is willing to lie to you with a straight face, which is absolutely terrifying. I think people are out here today fighting for truth and freedom.
6. Mr. Ho (賀先生) ──24 Years old
I want to say, I condemn the violence.
I'm a youth social worker, and it was a group of fellow social workers who organized our group here. Young people we work with often ask us "why are right and wrong reversed in this society?" We stress working closely with our peers, and those young peers were labeled a violent mob at the last protest. We want to tell them they're not alone. It's our responsibility to promote social justice and protect human rights. We're heartbroken to see such excessive police force over the past few days.
7. Mrs. Wu (胡小姐) and her Family
I want to say, I'm heartbroken and furious.
We all came out for the last two rallies. Before this, I never marched before, but I always sympathized. When I first heard about the extradition bill, I thought there wasn't anything in it for Hong Kong, and there was no consultation with the people about it. Carrie Lam's attitude at the press conference was also quite disrespectful to the people of Hong Kong.
The June 16 rally today is quite special; Carrie Lam said she would suspend the bill indefinitely, but our demand was for how to withdraw it completely. And the protest on June 12 wasn't a riot, we just wanted to help the students speak out. My daughter watched TV about this and asked me "why are my brother and sister out there protesting?" She's only seven years old, and I have to explain things for her.
8. Mr. Chow (周先生) ──67 Years old
I want to say, the people of Hong Kong are of the same mind, and at the same starting point. We want the government to listen to us, and see the devotion of the Hong Kong people; we're not a bunch of troublemakers.
I'm old and it's hard to move around. But I decided to come out after everything that's happened because this is the responsibility of all Hong Kong people. As you can see from the news, the Hong Kong people intended to put on a peaceful protest, but the Chief Executive doesn't listen to public opinion, and the escalation of the conflict is her responsibility.
(To read the Chinese version of this article, please click: 陳朗熹／「200萬+1」的8張容顏 )
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