Massive protests prompted an apology from the chief executive

HONG KONG—Protesters poured into this city’s streets for a second Sunday despite the suspension of a controversial bill to expand the government’s extradition powers, as a week of demonstrations appeared to be spiraling into a broader political movement.

The massive turnout, which organizers estimated at nearly two million, was the third mass demonstration in eight days. It was a rejection of a partial walkback by Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who a day earlier indefinitely suspended work on the bill, which would allow suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial, but stopped short of scrapping the proposal. Police estimated that 338,000 people had followed the official procession path. The sprawling nature of the protest made a precise count impossible.

Protesters chanted for the bill to be withdrawn and Mrs. Lam to step down.

The turmoil has thrown Hong Kong governance into crisis and threatens to spill over into problems for China’s central government in Beijing, which endorsed the proposal but had largely tried to distance itself from it. Fears over the law have grown into a mass defense of Hong Kong’s identity and the legal autonomy that preserves its culture and freedoms from those of mainland China.

Seven hours into the march, Mrs. Lam apologized to the Hong Kong people for mishandling the bill. She promised to accept criticism with sincerity and humility, and reiterated that there was no timeline for discussion of the controversial bill to restart. But she didn’t say she would withdraw the bill or step down. That didn’t placate march organizers, who encouraged supporters to join a series of smaller-scale events planned Monday, including strikes and a boycott of classes.

After the end of the march was officially declared at 11 p.m., some major roads outside government headquarters were occupied by thousands of protesters, though there was only a light police presence.

The third mass demonstration in the past eight days happened in Hong Kong on Sunday. This protest was organized by opponents of a controversial extradition bill, which was suspended indefinitely by Hong Kong officials the day before. The WSJ’s Crystal Tai spoke with some of the marchers, who explained why they are demonstrating only one week removed from the country’s largest protest since 1997.

“The scale of the turnout is stunning. This is historic,” said Antony Dapiran, a lawyer and author of a book on dissent in the city. “This is Hong Kong coming out peacefully and en masse to give their response to what Lam had to say yesterday. They’re saying: No.”

The march followed a week of sporadic protests, including a day of clashes on Wednesday, when police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at demonstrators, and a massive but largely peaceful rally against the bill by as many as a million people on June 9. On Saturday, a man fell to his death after attaching a banner protesting the extradition bill to a scaffold at Pacific Place mall, near the legislature.

HONG KONG—Protesters poured into this city’s streets for a second Sunday despite the suspension of a controversial bill to expand the government’s extradition powers, as a week of demonstrations appeared to be spiraling into a broader political movement.
The massive turnout, which organizers estimated at nearly two million, was the third mass demonstration in eight days. It was a rejection of a partial walkback by Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who a day earlier indefinitely suspended work on the bill, which would allow suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial, but stopped short of scrapping the proposal. Police estimated that 338,000 people had followed the official procession path. The sprawling nature of the protest made a precise count impossible.
Protesters chanted for the bill to be withdrawn and Mrs. Lam to step down.
The turmoil has thrown Hong Kong governance into crisis and threatens to spill over into problems for China’s central government in Beijing, which endorsed the proposal but had largely tried to distance itself from it. Fears over the law have grown into a mass defense of Hong Kong’s identity and the legal autonomy that preserves its culture and freedoms from those of mainland China.

Thousands of black-clad protesters in Hong Kong on Sunday allowed an ambulance to pass during a rally against a controversial extradition-law proposal.Photo: hector retamal/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
Seven hours into the march, Mrs. Lam apologized to the Hong Kong people for mishandling the bill. She promised to accept criticism with sincerity and humility, and reiterated that there was no timeline for discussion of the controversial bill to restart. But she didn’t say she would withdraw the bill or step down. That didn’t placate march organizers, who encouraged supporters to join a series of smaller-scale events planned Monday, including strikes and a boycott of classes.
After the end of the march was officially declared at 11 p.m., some major roads outside government headquarters were occupied by thousands of protesters, though there was only a light police presence.
The third mass demonstration in the past eight days happened in Hong Kong on Sunday. This protest was organized by opponents of a controversial extradition bill, which was suspended indefinitely by Hong Kong officials the day before. The WSJ’s Crystal Tai spoke with some of the marchers, who explained why they are demonstrating only one week removed from the country’s largest protest since 1997.
“The scale of the turnout is stunning. This is historic,” said Antony Dapiran, a lawyer and author of a book on dissent in the city. “This is Hong Kong coming out peacefully and en masse to give their response to what Lam had to say yesterday. They’re saying: No.”
The march followed a week of sporadic protests, including a day of clashes on Wednesday, when police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at demonstrators, and a massive but largely peaceful rally against the bill by as many as a million people on June 9. On Saturday, a man fell to his death after attaching a banner protesting the extradition bill to a scaffold at Pacific Place mall, near the legislature.

Sunday’s protests were broad, with students joined by families pushing children in strollers and elderly in wheelchairs. Shouts of “Withdraw!” and “Step down!” rang on for hours as protesters marched and could be heard in nearby skyscrapers and residential buildings. Participants clogged major streets for more than a mile. Even hours after it began, protesters were still streaming to the starting point, filling streets more than half a mile away.

Protesters on Sunday wore black T-shirts to express outrage at the police response on Wednesday, as well as at Mrs. Lam, organizers said. Many carried white flowers to lay at the site along the march route where the man who had hung the banner died.

The march route was wider than a week ago, and crowds were so big marchers spilled in four other roads.

They also called for an apology from the police, who they say used a disproportionate amount of force to control crowds on Wednesday, and for those arrested in connection with Wednesday’s protests not to be prosecuted.

Others chanted, “No riot. Only tyranny,” objecting to the city’s classification of Wednesday’s demonstration as a riot. People held placards saying “students aren’t violent” and “don’t kill us.” At least 80 injuries were reported from Wednesday’s clash, with a few people requiring hospitalization.

Resistance to the bill reignited the opposition movement after a series of moves over the past two years to silence opposition and erode Hong Kong’s liberties. The pro-democracy camp was fractured and, many thought, broken.

“A generation that had been written off has spoken,” said Jason Y. Ng, convener of the Progressive Lawyers Group and author of several books on the political development of Hong Kong “People won’t take things lying down anymore when their freedoms are being threatened.”

While Wednesday’s demonstrations degenerated quickly into a series of running battles between police and protesters—an unusual scene in Hong Kong—Sunday’s march was peaceful and orderly, even though it was far larger. Crowds parted for a passing ambulance. A number of church groups sent contingents. Volunteers passed out signs, sports drinks and origami flowers. The Red Cross set up aid stations.

The bill they were protesting would allow suspected criminals to be taken across the border to mainland China, to stand trial in its more opaque judicial system, which many see as an encroachment on the legal and political autonomy granted Hong Kong under an arrangement known as “one country, two systems.”

The protest on June 9 was the biggest since China regained sovereignty of Hong Kong in 1997, until this most recent one. Organizers said 1.03 million people attended then; police estimated the crowd size at 240,000.

Mrs. Lam’s announcements over the weekend represent a rare concession for the leader of this semiautonomous territory. Despite having previously expressed support for the bill, Chinese officials said the city’s government had proposed the law independently, a view Mrs. Lam repeated on Saturday.

In Washington on Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said President Trump was likely to discuss the social upheaval in Hong Kong if he meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Group of 20 summit of leading economies in Japan later this month.

“We see what’s happening, what’s unfolding in Hong Kong,” Mr. Pompeo said on Fox News. “We’re watching the people in Hong Kong speak about the things they value.”

Mr. Trump has made few public comments about the clashes in the city, but Mr. Pompeo denied that the president was tempering his response to avoid further complicating Washington’s high-stakes trade talks with Beijing.

By around 10 p.m., thousands of protesters had concentrated in Tamar Park near the offices of the city government. A large crowd had gathered in front of the building housing Mrs. Lam’s office and were chanting and shouting slogans. The visible police presence, however, was light, with only about a dozen or so officers visible in front of the government building. And the crowd was overwhelmingly peaceful.

Demonstrators remained late into the night. By around 3 a.m. Monday, the remaining protesters dwindled to a few thousand concentrated in the area around Hong Kong’s central government buildings. A small group sang hymns in front of the city’s legislative chambers, while several hundred more clustered on a main thoroughfare, with many sleeping in the street as the road remained closed.

Anthony Tam, a 27-year-old protester, called Mrs. Lam’s apology “nonsense,” saying he has little trust in the city’s leadership. He said it is important for the protesters to keep pressure on the government. “If we keep up this momentum, we will require not only her but all of them to resign, the whole government.”

“Carrie’s apology is totally insincere when there are no responses to the concrete demands of the people,” said Lee Cheuk-yan, general-secretary of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions. “If she really feels remorse over her handling of the bill, she should give in to our demands.”

Tom Fung, who said he participated in the protests on June 9 and June 12, came out again on Sunday to protest the bill with his friends from high school.

“Hong Kong is our root,” the 19-year-old student said. “We can’t dissipate our hope.”

—Dan Strumpf in Hong Kong contributed to this article.

Article originally appeared in The Wall Street Journal on 16 June 2019.

HONG KONG—Protesters poured into this city’s streets for a second Sunday despite the suspension of a controversial bill to expand the government’s extradition powers, as a week of demonstrations appeared to be spiraling into a broader political movement.
The massive turnout, which organizers estimated at nearly two million, was the third mass demonstration in eight days. It was a rejection of a partial walkback by Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who a day earlier indefinitely suspended work on the bill, which would allow suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial, but stopped short of scrapping the proposal. Police estimated that 338,000 people had followed the official procession path. The sprawling nature of the protest made a precise count impossible.
Protesters chanted for the bill to be withdrawn and Mrs. Lam to step down.
The turmoil has thrown Hong Kong governance into crisis and threatens to spill over into problems for China’s central government in Beijing, which endorsed the proposal but had largely tried to distance itself from it. Fears over the law have grown into a mass defense of Hong Kong’s identity and the legal autonomy that preserves its culture and freedoms from those of mainland China.

Thousands of black-clad protesters in Hong Kong on Sunday allowed an ambulance to pass during a rally against a controversial extradition-law proposal.Photo: hector retamal/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
Seven hours into the march, Mrs. Lam apologized to the Hong Kong people for mishandling the bill. She promised to accept criticism with sincerity and humility, and reiterated that there was no timeline for discussion of the controversial bill to restart. But she didn’t say she would withdraw the bill or step down. That didn’t placate march organizers, who encouraged supporters to join a series of smaller-scale events planned Monday, including strikes and a boycott of classes.
After the end of the march was officially declared at 11 p.m., some major roads outside government headquarters were occupied by thousands of protesters, though there was only a light police presence.
The third mass demonstration in the past eight days happened in Hong Kong on Sunday. This protest was organized by opponents of a controversial extradition bill, which was suspended indefinitely by Hong Kong officials the day before. The WSJ’s Crystal Tai spoke with some of the marchers, who explained why they are demonstrating only one week removed from the country’s largest protest since 1997.
“The scale of the turnout is stunning. This is historic,” said Antony Dapiran, a lawyer and author of a book on dissent in the city. “This is Hong Kong coming out peacefully and en masse to give their response to what Lam had to say yesterday. They’re saying: No.”
The march followed a week of sporadic protests, including a day of clashes on Wednesday, when police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at demonstrators, and a massive but largely peaceful rally against the bill by as many as a million people on June 9. On Saturday, a man fell to his death after attaching a banner protesting the extradition bill to a scaffold at Pacific Place mall, near the legislature.