A day after police escalated their tactics while clearing out protesters from the streets—including by firing a warning shot in the air and deploying water cannons—the pro-democracy camp in Hong Kong’s legislature called out city leader Carrie Lam for dragging her feet and failing to resolve the crisis.
Civic Party lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki, at a press conference on Aug. 26, said that Lam was delaying a resolution to the crisis stemming from her government’s proposed extradition bill, as protesters have already established a consensus on the “five demands.”
Earlier on Aug. 20, Lam had proposed a “platform for dialogue” with protesters at a press conference, two days after more than 1.7 million people took to the streets to call for a full withdrawal of the since-suspended extradition bill, which would allow the Chinese regime to transfer individuals for trial in mainland China.
Many fear that the bill would erode the city’s judicial independence, given China’s opaque judicial system and record of cracking down on dissidents.
Since mass protests in June, protesters have broadened their initial demands for the bill’s withdrawal to include an independent inquiry into police use of force toward protesters and universal suffrage in the city’s elections.
On Aug. 24, Lam had taken to her official Facebook page to explain that she met with a group of people to provide her suggestions on how to establish the dialogue platform. Her Facebook post was soon flooded with comments by Hongkongers displeased with her efforts.
Kwok, while calling Lam the “most irresponsible chief executive in Hong Kong,” said that Lam was shifting people’s attention with her proposed platform, while trying to avoid taking real responsibility for the crisis.
Meanwhile, lawmaker Au Nok-hin said that China was practicing “political censorship” after he received complaints from Hong Kong citizens who have traveled to the mainland that their phones were checked by Chinese authorities for “sensitive” content about the protests.
Protests continued on Aug. 26. According to Hong Kong public broadcaster RTHK, about 40 people staged a peaceful sit-in at the Revenue Tower in Wan Chai, urging the city government to fulfill their demands.
An unnamed protester told RTHK that they had chosen to protest at the Revenue Tower because it was taxpayers who paid for police officers’ salaries, but officers turned around and beat protesters and citizens with “abnormal force.”
This is not the first time that protesters have targeted the Revenue Tower. On June 25, protesters blocked several government buildings, including the Revenue Tower and the nearby Immigration Tower, in an attempt to force the government to answer their demands.
The hospital staff criticized the police for depriving the basic human rights of protesters, when they obstructed ambulances from reaching protest sites. Moreover, it said police also violated international human rights laws when they arrested medical workers from the scene of recent protests, despite them already identifying themselves as first-aid medical staff.
The statement also pointed out that medical staff have seen firsthand the harmful effects of tear gas on protesters: Some of those they treated now have respiratory, intestinal, and skin problems.
Police have fired nearly 2,000 canisters of tear gas since June. Some protesters have taken photos of used tear gas canisters from the scene, which appear to show that some canisters have passed their expiration date. Police have yet to respond to the allegations of using expired tear gas.
At a daily press briefing on Aug. 26, the police announced that it had fired a total of 215 rounds of tear gas, 74 rubber bullets, 44 sponge grenades, and four bean bag rounds over the past weekend. A total of 86 people were arrested, the youngest being 12 years old.
Two separate peaceful marches were held this past weekend—one in Kwun Tong and another in Tsuen Wan—but both protests ended in the evening with clashes between protesters and the police.