Hong Kong leader apologises as protest chokes city

Monday, June 17, 2019

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ABOUT two million protesters choked Hong Kong's streets in a powerful rebuke of a reviled extradition law, organisers said yesterday, piling pressure on the city's embattled pro-Beijing leader who apologised for causing “conflict” but refused to step down.

The show of force saw vast crowds marching for hours in tropical heat, calling for the resignation of Chief Executive Carrie Lam who was forced to suspend the Bill as public anger mounted.

Throngs of largely black-clad protesters snaked their way for miles through the streets to the city's parliament, with the organisers' estimate for the crowd size doubling an already record-breaking demonstration the previous Sunday in the city of 7.3 million.

The estimate has not been independently verified but if confirmed it would be the largest demonstration in Hong Kong's history.

Hong Kong's biggest protest to date was a massive rally in support of Tienanmen protesters in May 1989, before Beijing's deadly crackdown, which sources at the time put at roughly 1.5-million strong.

Police, who historically give far lower estimates for political protests, said 338,000 people turned out at the demonstration's “peak” Sunday.

Thousands were camping out overnight to continue the protest, including outside the legislature, with the police seemingly ceding the streets to the jubilant masses.

Critics fear the Beijing-backed law will entangle people in China's notoriously opaque and politicised courts and damage the city's reputation as a safe business hub.

Lam's office put out a statement late Sunday admitting that shortcomings in how her Administration handled the law had “led to a lot of conflict and disputes” and “disappointed and distressed many citizens”.

It came a day after she announced she would postpone the law indefinitely.


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