The Civil Human Rights Front today announced plans for another major rally in Admiralty, adding that they also intend to file for a judicial review of police violence against protesters at a rally on June 12.
The group — which has been responsible for organizing some of the largest rallies Hong Kong has ever seen in protest of a controversial extradition bill — said that the July 21 rally in Admiralty will start at 7:30pm and end at 9pm, and will see protesters reiterate their five key demands, including completely withdrawing the bill, but will place a bigger emphasis on calls for an independent inquiry into police’s use of force at the rally on June 12.
That protest sparked widespread anger towards police after officers used tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets and bean bag rounds to forcibly disperse tens of thousands of mostly peaceful protesters. The CHRF is currently waiting for a letter of no objection from police before announcing specifically where the gathering will take place.
Speaking to reporters today, CHRF convenor Jimmy Sham accused Chief Executive Carrie Lam of lying in a press conference on Tuesday, in which she maintained the government didn’t label the June 12 march a “riot” — a distinction with important legal ramifications — and insisted, to no avail, that the extradition bill was “dead”.
“We really want to ask, Carrie Lam, when will you tell us the truth? Is it really so difficult for you to tell us the truth?” Sham said.
Sham held up a letter of objection that he received from police for a rally on June 13 and 14 that indeed identified the June 12 demonstration as “a riot,” a characterization publicly echoed following the incident by Police Commissioner Stephen Lo and in a statement from Lam’s own office. In the face of widespread disapproval, Lo has since attempted to walk back that characterization, acknowledging that most of the protesters were peaceful.
Protest organizer Civil Human Rights Front showed doc where police say they define June 12 protest as “riot”, but CE Carrie Lam’s been saying govt never give any definition to that rally #antiELAB #antiELABhk pic.twitter.com/OOW9JCLE42
— Joanne Wong (@JOceanW) July 12, 2019
Sham also told the press that the CHRF will file for judicial review regarding the police’s use of excessive force on June 12.
CHRF co-convenor Bonnie Leung elaborated on the motion, saying: “What happened on 12th June was that the police violently dispersed our peaceful assembly right outside CITIC Tower. What had happened was, before the violence dispersed, the police [gave] no warning or explained to us before they threw tear gas bombs into the protesters, and also on our stages.”
The police’s heavy-handed response was roundly criticized following the protest, with Amnesty International accusing authorities at the time of taking “advantage of the violent acts of a small minority as a pretext to use excessive force against the vast majority of peaceful protesters.”
When asked by a reporter if they were concerned that some protesters after the planned rally on the 21st might try to charge into government buildings — as they did at a protest on July 1 that took place the same day as CHRF rally — Leung said she didn’t believe that would happen, saying she had “confidence in Hong Kong people.”
“As we’ve seen throughout the campaign, we’ve seen that when protesters are very angry, that [when] they feel the need to take action [it] was totally because of Carrie Lam’s government’s lies, and their ignorance and arrogance,” Leung said, adding that Hongkongers were “fully capable” of peacefully expressing their opinions.
In addition to the full withdrawal of the bill and a probe into the police violence, protesters are also seeking the formal retraction of the “riot” label, the release of those arrested in relation to recent protests, and the implementation of “genuine universal suffrage” in the city.