It's been six months since the start of the Hong Kong protests that began over a controversial extradition bill that would have allowed people suspected of crimes in Taiwan or mainland China to be transferred to these jurisdictions to face trial. Although Chief Executive Carrie Lam withdrew the bill in early September, the movement has since morphed into an overall anti-government, pro-democracy movement, with demonstrators calling for five key demands to be met. Follow our live updates from the gathering being held at Edinburgh Place in Central starting at 7pm to commerate the occasion.
Young Post will be reporting events as they happen - check back here for updates!
Tonight's rally has been organised by the Hong Kong Civil Assembly Team. The rally named “United We Stand” specifically highlighs two of the five demands: the retraction of the characterisation of “riot” and amnesty for all arrested protesters.
Six months ago, on June 12, the day intense confrontations between anti-extradition bill protesters and the Hong Kong Police Force took place outside the Government Headquarters in Admiralty. On June 9, this year, one millions Hongkongers took to the streets to demand the extradition bill be killed. The government refused to budge. On June 12, tens of thousands of people surrounded the government complex, hoping to stall the second reading of the bill. On that evening police used teargas, rubber bullets and beanbag rounds in the attempt to disperse the crowds. The government said the protests was a riot. A conviction of rioting in Hong Kong can result in 10 years in prison.
[UPDATE: December 12, 7:53 pm]
Democratic activist Joshua Wong Chi-fung said the June 12 incident made the second reading of the extradition bill impossible. "It proved that when citizens come together, their power can force the government to give in and compromise." Wong also thanked anti-government protesters for supporting the movement, "which changes the future of Hong Kong." He encouraged participants to show their solidarity for the now detained protesters by writing letters and Christmas cards to them.
"Let's also encourage the newly elected pro-democracy district council members regularly visit the arrested protesters starting from January [when their position takes effect] ," he added.
[UPDATE: December 12, 8 pm]
Civil Human Rights Front convener Jimmy Sham Tsz-kit promised to visit the jailed protesters starting from next year. He also said that June 12 was a proof that the movement could actually be leaderless. He urged Hongkongers to vote next year, “Next September, we want Junius Ho to lose everything!”
Sham restated that the people would be persistent in their five demands. “We want our dual universal suffrage! The Front will stand with all Hongkongers.” He concluded his speech by calling on people to take to the streets again on January 1.
[UPDATE: December 12, 8:36 pm]
A woman known only as Ms Ng, who was responsible for setting up sound equipment at a rally supposed to take place on June 12, gave her first-person account of what happened at Citic Tower in Central.
Police have been criticised for their actions that night, accused of using excessive force and controversial methods such as kettling where police form a cordon and prevent people from leaving the area.
“A letter of no objection was granted for the rally, which was very peaceful. Some students even brought their homework assignments,” Ng said. “But the police suddenly charged the area and made loud noises with their long shields around 3 or 4 pm.
“The 15, 16 year old students were crying . . . Many of them hadn’t even have time to pick up their books before they escaped [running towards the Citic Tower which was locked].” After the incident, Ng says, she suffered from nightmares of being swamped by tear gas.
[UPDATE: December 12, 9:10 pm]
Non-profit political organisation Tin Shui Wai Connection Lam Chun said he was one of the 6,000 arrested protesters.
“I always ponder what Hongkongers have done to [deserve all these pain and sacrifices,] he said. “Why did students have to risk their lives and sacrifice their youth to fight the battle, but not enjoy their summer?”
He put the blame on Chief Executive Carrie Lam Yuet-ngor and the government’s lack of response to public opinion - the five demands.
“Since August, TSW Connection has been trying to provide support for arrested protesters, including legal assistance and looking for social workers to aid teenage arrestees,” he said. “Despite our support, you have to face it alone when you’re arrested . . . You might be troubled by a lot of thoughts [when you’re detained]. But you must remain calm . . . and silent [in front of the police]. Only tell them your name, occupation and address,” he said to crowd, while reminding them to protect themselves and their peers when participating in future protests.
“This is a war to fight the tyranny and the government’s oppression . . . If we win, June 12 would become a day of commemoration for our victory.”
[UPDATE: December 12, 9:23 pm]
One of the founders of Protect the Children, missionary Chan Hoi-hing said 58 of their volunteers were arrested in their PolyU action. He condemned the police for arresting those who were just trying to protect the young protesters. He then quoted a bible verse, “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly.”
He also mentioned that a member of their group named “the yellow object” by police who had been kicked after he was arrested in Yuen Long had been released after refusing bail. He’s currently planning further actions to seek justice from the police.
[UPDATE: December 12, 9:23 pm]
Hong Kong Civil Assembly announced 43,000 attended the rally today. The atmosphere had been peaceful throughout.
This ends our coverage for the night. For more on this story head to scmp.com