HONG KONG—Hundreds of thousands of people clogged the streets in central Hong Kong on June 16 dressed in black to demand the city’s leader step down, a day after she suspended an extradition bill.
The massive rally saw some protesters carry white carnation flowers, while others held banners saying, “Do not shoot, we are Hong Kongers,” as they sought to avoid a repeat of the clash that rocked the financial center on June 12 when police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at protesters.
The protesters, from young families to the elderly, formed a sea of black along roads, walkways, and train stations across Hong Kong Island to vent their frustration and anger at Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam.
Loud cheers rang out when protesters called through loud speakers for Lam to step down. “Step down” calls echoed through the streets. Protesters also chanted “pursue the black police,” angry at what they say was an overreaction by police that left more than 70 civilians injured on June 12.
On June 15, Beijing-backed Lam indefinitely delayed the extradition bill that could send people to mainland China to face trial, expressing “deep sorrow and regret” although she stopped short of apologizing.
The about-face was one of the most significant political turnarounds by a Hong Kong government since Britain returned the territory to China in 1997, and it threw into question Lam’s ability to continue to lead the city.
“Carrie Lam refused to apologize yesterday. It’s unacceptable,” said 16-year-old Catherine Cheung. “She’s a terrible leader who is full of lies … I think she’s only delaying the bill now to trick us into calming down.”
Her classmate, Cindy Yip, said: “That’s why we’re still demanding the bill be scrapped. We don’t trust her anymore. She has to quit.”
Critics say the planned extradition law could threaten Hong Kong’s rule of law and its international reputation as an Asian financial hub. Some Hong Kong tycoons have already started moving personal wealth offshore.
On June 16, protesters pasted hundreds of fliers and notes on a wall near the protest site, with some reading, “Stop shooting innocent people,” and “Use your brain, violence is insane.”
At the start of the march, protesters paused for a minute’s silence to remember an activist who died from a fall on June 15 near the site of the recent demonstrations.
In Taiwan, about 5,000 people rallied outside the parliament building in Taipei with banners saying, “No China extradition law” and “Taiwan supports Hong Kong.”
Some of the protesters in Hong Kong also waved Taiwan flags.
By Alun John, Jessie Pang, James Pomfret, Anne Marie Roantree, Felix Tam, Twinnie Siu, Clare Jim, Noah Sin. Ben Blanchard, and Fabian Hamacher.