Home Central Asia The return of Hong Kong’s umbrella movement

The return of Hong Kong’s umbrella movement

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Police and the government were completely wrong footed Wednesday morning, as thousands and then tens of thousands of mostly young protesters surrounded the city government headquarters — known as the Legislative Council — blocking roads and preventing lawmakers from going to work. Those lawmakers were supposed to start the second reading of a hugely controversial extradition bill with China. On Sunday, according to organizers, more than a million people marched in protest against the bill, which has also been heavily criticized by business groups, human rights NGOs, and the international community. Despite the huge turnout and opposition across a wide swath of society, it seemed there was little anyone could do to stop it. Protests were expected Wednesday but more as a display of anger and venting of frustration, rather than an effective blocking tactic. The young protesters, most in their teens or early twenties, had other ideas, however. By noon, the protest had transformed into a redux of the 2014 Umbrella Movement."(This) boils down to a display of people power in Hong Kong, a display in particular of young people power," opposition lawmaker Claudia Mo told the tens of thousands who had gathered outside the Legislative Council building."At the end of the Umbrella Movement, didn't we say, 'we will be back'? And now, we are back!" With authorities forced to cancel Wednesday's legislative session, and thousands still in the streets, Mo and other opposition lawmakers have called on the government to shelve the bill rather than risk an escalation into violence. Even some supporters of the changes to the law have criticized the speed at which Chief Executive Carrie Lam is seeking its passage, bypassing normal procedure."Before Carrie Lam announces that the extradition bill is shelved we will not leave here," said Shum Tsz-kit, convenor of the Civil Human Rights Front, which organized Sunday's march. "We call on bigger companies, bigger organizations to support the strike, so all Hong Kong can come out and tell the world that we oppose the extradition law."Protesters carry barricades as they march toward the Legislative Council.

Seizing control

After a tense but peaceful evening Tuesday, as thousands of protesters gathered around the Legislative Council building ahead of Wednesday's meeting, it was unclear what, if anything protesters could do to break the impasse, amid a huge police presence. Police, however, were focused on blocking entrances to the Legislative Council complex itself, and either didn't have the resources or had not expected to have to prevent tens of thousands of protesters swarming into the roads. That's what they did in massive numbers, after a mass text message went out at 8 a.m. to a core group of protesters, who led others into the main highways passing the Legislative Council building carrying makeshift barriers, coordinating via shouts, megaphones and walkie talkies. In less than 10 minutes, two main roads — Harcourt and Lung Wo — had been closed off to traffic. Attempts by police to push them back were unsuccessful, and they quickly retreated, except for those who had been deployed to guard the entrance to the legislature, now effectively trapped inside. Protesters set up large barricades using the fences that had been designed to keep them away, and reinforced them with cable ties and unfurled umbrellas. Tense, angry scenes, during which police used pepper spray several times, gave way to a more relaxed atmosphere as it was announced legislators would not debate the bill Wednesday, with protesters reveling in a victory few thought was possible. "A million of us chose to come out to fight the government because the government chose to make an evil law. But after that protest, the government still chose to push the evil law and ignore the voice of a million citizens," said 18-year-old protester Sunny Chan.&quoRead More – Source

CNN