Sunday, July 21, 2019
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Hong Kong extradition law: Chinese broadcasters ignore protests

The extent of the protests in Hong Kong can be grasped most accurately from above.

Videos and photos of millions of people walking the streets of the former British colony on Sunday show the massive upsurge of people standing between skyscrapers.

It's hard to say how many people participated in the rally, but estimates suggest that as many as 2 million of the city's 7 million people have turned out.

CNN journalist James Griffiths, who rigged the action, described the scale of the protests as "insane."

But the Chinese mainland, the communist government, and state-sponsored broadcasters either ignore the protests completely or pursue a narrative that seems far removed from reality.

The people's Daily, which is considered the unofficial voice of the Chinese government, published a short opinion piece, in which the protests were played down, but otherwise was kept silent.

Today's story is about President Xi Jinping's visit to Kyrgyzstan. The second main story is about currency fluctuations.

The people's Daily The controversial extradition law, which is at the center of the protests, is "supported by general public opinion in Hong Kong.

"The general public is looking forward to closing loopholes in the law to prevent Hong Kong becoming a sanctuary for sinners," the publication said.

China's state television channel CCTV shunned the topic in its main news all day on Sunday.

China attributed the protests to a small group of organizers "working together" with Western governments.

The people's Daily The government repeated that it is "strongly opposed to the intervention of external forces in Hong Kong affairs and China's internal affairs."

She also supported pro-Beijing Lam's option to override the bill, saying it was an opportunity to "listen to opinions".

The search on China's Twitter-like microblogging site Weibo for "Hong Kong protests" revealed only official statements by the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

The ministry has called such rallies "uprisings" or "practices that undermine Hong Kong's peace and stability."

According to protesters, the extradition law threatens the longstanding "one country, two systems" agreement between Hong Kong and China.

They resent a proposed amendment to the Law on Voluntary Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance (Novelle), which, according to the locals, could undermine Hong Kong's political and legal autonomy.

Hong Kong has long enjoyed civil liberties such as protest, freedom of speech and dissident movements, which are severely restricted in Xi Jinping's China.

The controversial law, however, provides that anyone on Hong Kong soil can be extradited to mainland China.

The bill, which would not grant China any extradition powers, was suspended this week following the huge backlash, but a protest that followed the suspension suggests that Hong Kong will accept nothing less than to reject the bill altogether.

The demonstrators marched for hours on Sunday, a week after already 1 million people had taken to the streets.

They have already called for the resignation of Hong Kong boss Carrie Lam. Instead, she apologized.

"The Director-General acknowledges that her government work has been unsatisfactory, causing confusion and conflict in society and causing disappointment and heartbreak," she said in a statement.

"The Director-General wants to apologize to the citizens of the city and is open to criticism (how) of further improving society and providing better services to the wider society."

The protests were clouded by the death of a 35-year-old demonstrator who fell from the scaffolding trying to hang a banner.

He had rolled up a banner on a scaffold attached to an exclusive mall, but had fallen when rescuers tried to bring it in, the police said.

As a sign of unity, the demonstrators wore white ribbons and white flags, while others attached flowers, incense, and cigarettes to a makeshift shrine.

A mosaic of A4 sheets of handwritten messages of hope, defiance and solidarity in Chinese and English covered the paving stones in front of the Parliament building. A young man with a megaphone told the homecoming to make a contribution, while others distributed paper and pencils and pasted the offerings on the floor.

On Monday at dawn, the police announced that they wanted to clear the streets of protesters in the morning.

Shortly thereafter, several police officers lined up in a row and entered a street in the center of Hong Kong against several hundred demonstrators. The police asked for cooperation in clearing the road.

The protesters responded with songs, some kneeling in front of the officials. In stark contrast to last week's protests, demonstrators have neither veiled their face nor tried to hide their identity.

Some speculated that earlier protests had been suppressed because participants feared they could be punished by the authorities.

Instead, both young and old protesters participated, some of whom even pushed walkers through the large crowd.

At the end of the march, hundreds were sitting wearily around the government headquarters. Some sang, others heard speeches. Some just rested.

"There is not really a plan, it's like a game of chess," one man told the Associated Press.

Continue the conversation on Twitter @ro_smith or email: rohan.smith1@news.com.au.

– with AP

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