The march took place peacefully. But after a statement by the government, which reaffirms the desire to pass the law, hundreds of young people clashed with the police in Wan Chai and in front of the Legco (Central).
Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - More than a million people took part in the protest march against the extradition law that the Hong Kong government wants to pass this week. The law would allow extraditing suspected criminals to countries with which there is still no extradition agreement. These countries include China and Taiwan.
But the population fears that suspects transferred to China would have no certainty of a fair trial and respect for their basic human rights, given the dependence of the Chinese courts on the will of the Communist Party. Furthermore, it is feared that the law could be used by China to stop and seize dissidents and those who express different opinions to Beijing.
The organizers of the march claim a figure of 1.03 million, but the police say that there were 230 thousand protesters. They include many Catholic groups and Card. Joseph Zen, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong. In recent days there have been demonstrations against the law by Hong Kong lawyers and foreign members of the Chambers of Commerce. Even the vigil for the dead of Tiananmen included criticism of the extradition law.
The huge mass that gathered yesterday afternoon at Victoria Park was so huge that the march had to begin half an hour earlier to allow the runoff. Moving towards the center, the police had to open all the lanes to make the march move, which was too slow. The last groups left Victoria Park around 7 pm, more than four hours after the march began.
According to the organizers, yesterday's march is the biggest protest since 1997, when Hong Kong returned to China. It recalled the great mobilization that took place in 2003 when the government wanted to pass a security law (the so-called "Art. 23"), which would have given more power to the police and reduced the rights of assembly and speech. Then (July 1, 2003), the city responded with a march of half a million people, the government had to withdraw the law, the head of the then executive, Tung Chee-hua, resigned.
This time, the government seems immovable. At around 11pm yesterday, it issued a note stating its willingness to go ahead with the passing of the law, which will be discussed at the Legco (Hong Kong parliament) on June 12th.
At the same time, at the end of the great demonstration, hundreds of young people (so-called "localists" who would like Hong Kong to separate from China) gathered around the Legco and clashed with the police. Other clashes occurred at Wan Chai. The police registered the names of 300 people accusing them of violence against the police.
In a radio interview this morning, Democrat MP Eddie Chu Hoi-dick said the violence that arose after the peaceful demonstration was the government's fault: it was caused by his "irresponsible statement", in which the government confirms that despite the great march will continue towards the approval of the law.
(Photos and video from internet sources)