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Hong Kong’s ‘death fighters’: young protesters with nothing to lose Hong Kong’s ‘death fighters’: young protesters with nothing to lose
(21 days later)
As midnight approached on Monday, four protesters stood their ground inside the battered interior of Hong Kong’s legislative council (LegCo) building where they had barged in a few hours earlier. Surrounded by graffiti and chaos, they insisted on waiting until the police came to arrest them.As midnight approached on Monday, four protesters stood their ground inside the battered interior of Hong Kong’s legislative council (LegCo) building where they had barged in a few hours earlier. Surrounded by graffiti and chaos, they insisted on waiting until the police came to arrest them.
“Our action might not be useful but it is symbolic,” one young father told a reporter in video footage. “We know we might get eight or 10 years for doing this, but I grew up here, I love the freedoms and the dignified life and I don’t want to lose them.”“Our action might not be useful but it is symbolic,” one young father told a reporter in video footage. “We know we might get eight or 10 years for doing this, but I grew up here, I love the freedoms and the dignified life and I don’t want to lose them.”
Suddenly, dozens of other protesters rushed into the chamber, shouting: “Let’s leave together!”, grabbed the four they had named “the death fighters” and frogmarched them away.Suddenly, dozens of other protesters rushed into the chamber, shouting: “Let’s leave together!”, grabbed the four they had named “the death fighters” and frogmarched them away.
Hong Kong protests: city divided over storming of legislatureHong Kong protests: city divided over storming of legislature
“If they don’t go, we don’t go,” a young woman said. “We’re all afraid, but we are more afraid that we won’t see those four again.”“If they don’t go, we don’t go,” a young woman said. “We’re all afraid, but we are more afraid that we won’t see those four again.”
Emotions have been running high in Hong Kong over the past month during its biggest political crisis in decades. Millions have thronged the streets to protest against a proposed law allowing for the extradition of individuals to mainland China, where courts are controlled by the Communist party.Emotions have been running high in Hong Kong over the past month during its biggest political crisis in decades. Millions have thronged the streets to protest against a proposed law allowing for the extradition of individuals to mainland China, where courts are controlled by the Communist party.
The protests forced the government to suspend the bill and its leader, Carrie Lam, apologisedfor the crisis that had engulfed the city, but protesters said they wanted more. They demand that the government fully withdraw the bill, release all those arrested in previous protests and launch an investigation into the police’s use of force on 12 June, when they used teargas, rubber bullets and truncheons on largely peaceful crowds.The protests forced the government to suspend the bill and its leader, Carrie Lam, apologisedfor the crisis that had engulfed the city, but protesters said they wanted more. They demand that the government fully withdraw the bill, release all those arrested in previous protests and launch an investigation into the police’s use of force on 12 June, when they used teargas, rubber bullets and truncheons on largely peaceful crowds.
Tensions erupted on Monday, the anniversary of Hong Kong’s 1997 return to Chinese rule, when hundreds of angry protesters stormed and vandalised the Hong Kong’s legislature. Police fired teargas after midnight to disperse them.Tensions erupted on Monday, the anniversary of Hong Kong’s 1997 return to Chinese rule, when hundreds of angry protesters stormed and vandalised the Hong Kong’s legislature. Police fired teargas after midnight to disperse them.
After police cleared the site, they immediately began to collect evidence against protesters in the early hours of Tuesday. Local media reported that police had stopped many vehicles to check passengers’ identity.After police cleared the site, they immediately began to collect evidence against protesters in the early hours of Tuesday. Local media reported that police had stopped many vehicles to check passengers’ identity.
‘We have utterly lost hope in this place’‘We have utterly lost hope in this place’
Beijing will not rest until it controls Hong Kong. We must keep fighting | Joshua Wong and Johnson YeungBeijing will not rest until it controls Hong Kong. We must keep fighting | Joshua Wong and Johnson Yeung
A number of young protesters said the storming of parliament was a symbolic act of defiance against a government and political system they had little say in. Hong Kong’s leader is not elected by ordinary voters but by a committee accountable to Beijing. Only half of the 70-seat legislature is directly elected, while the other 35 seats are occupied by mostly pro-establishment figures from corporate and special interest groups.A number of young protesters said the storming of parliament was a symbolic act of defiance against a government and political system they had little say in. Hong Kong’s leader is not elected by ordinary voters but by a committee accountable to Beijing. Only half of the 70-seat legislature is directly elected, while the other 35 seats are occupied by mostly pro-establishment figures from corporate and special interest groups.
Young people also said it was a sense of hopelessness that had driven them to desperation, as the government continued to fail to respond to their political demands.Young people also said it was a sense of hopelessness that had driven them to desperation, as the government continued to fail to respond to their political demands.
“Actually we are really afraid of being arrested, but we want to let the world and the government know that we won’t give in so easily,” said a man in his 20s who entered the parliament building on Monday night. He did not want to identified.“Actually we are really afraid of being arrested, but we want to let the world and the government know that we won’t give in so easily,” said a man in his 20s who entered the parliament building on Monday night. He did not want to identified.
What started in early June as protests against a new extradition law have broadened into a pro-democracy movement concerned about the wider relationship between Hong Kong and China and the future for the special administrative region.What started in early June as protests against a new extradition law have broadened into a pro-democracy movement concerned about the wider relationship between Hong Kong and China and the future for the special administrative region.
Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, has offered a ‘solemn’ personal apology for the crisis and also hinted that she had in effect shelved the controversial legislation. However, protesters criticised her as insincere and said she had ignored their key demands. The demonstrations have continued.Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, has offered a ‘solemn’ personal apology for the crisis and also hinted that she had in effect shelved the controversial legislation. However, protesters criticised her as insincere and said she had ignored their key demands. The demonstrations have continued.
People have been demonstrating against legal changes that would make it easier to extradite people from Hong Kong to China. Supporters say the amendments are key to ensuring the city does not become a criminal refuge, but critics worry Beijing will use the law to extradite political opponents and others to China. Under the amended law, those accused of offences punishable by seven years or more in prison could be extradited.People have been demonstrating against legal changes that would make it easier to extradite people from Hong Kong to China. Supporters say the amendments are key to ensuring the city does not become a criminal refuge, but critics worry Beijing will use the law to extradite political opponents and others to China. Under the amended law, those accused of offences punishable by seven years or more in prison could be extradited.
The government claims the push to change the law, which would also apply to Taiwan and Macau, stems from the killing last year of a Hong Kong woman while she was in Taiwan with her boyfriend. Authorities in Taiwan suspect the woman’s boyfriend, who remains in Hong Kong, but cannot try him because no extradition agreement is in place. The government claims the push to change the law, which would also apply to Taiwan and Macau, stems from the killing last year of a Hong Kong woman while she was in Taiwan with her boyfriend. Authorities in Taiwan suspect the woman’s boyfriend, who remains in Hong Kong, but cannot try him because no extradition agreement is in place. 
Officials have promised to safeguard against abuses, pledging that no one at risk of political or religious persecution will be sent to the mainland. Suspects who could face the death penalty would not be extradited.Officials have promised to safeguard against abuses, pledging that no one at risk of political or religious persecution will be sent to the mainland. Suspects who could face the death penalty would not be extradited.
Hong Kong officials have repeatedly said the bill has not come from the central government in Beijing. However, Beijing has voiced its backing for the changes.Hong Kong officials have repeatedly said the bill has not come from the central government in Beijing. However, Beijing has voiced its backing for the changes.
Many fear the proposed extradition law will be used by authorities to target political enemies. They worry the new legislation spells the end of the ‘one country, two systems’ policy, eroding the civil rights enjoyed by Hong Kong residents since the handover of sovereignty from the UK to China in 1997.Many fear the proposed extradition law will be used by authorities to target political enemies. They worry the new legislation spells the end of the ‘one country, two systems’ policy, eroding the civil rights enjoyed by Hong Kong residents since the handover of sovereignty from the UK to China in 1997.
Many attending the protests said they could not trust China as it had often used non-political crimes to target government critics, and they also feared Hong Kong officials would not be able to reject Beijing’s requests. Legal professionals have also expressed concern over the rights of those sent across the border to be tried. The conviction rate in Chinese courts is as high as 99%. Arbitrary detentions, torture and denial of legal representation of one’s choosing are also common.Many attending the protests said they could not trust China as it had often used non-political crimes to target government critics, and they also feared Hong Kong officials would not be able to reject Beijing’s requests. Legal professionals have also expressed concern over the rights of those sent across the border to be tried. The conviction rate in Chinese courts is as high as 99%. Arbitrary detentions, torture and denial of legal representation of one’s choosing are also common.
After the current crisis, analysts believe the Hong Kong government will probably start a new round of retaliatory measures against its critics while the Chinese government will tighten its grip on the city. Police have said that 32 people have been arrested over the recent demonstrations and five have been charged with rioting, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment. Six pro-democracy members of the legislature have already been ousted. After the current crisis, analysts believe the Hong Kong government will probably start a new round of retaliatory measures against its critics while the Chinese government will tighten its grip on the city. Not only have police clashed directly with demonstrators, but pro-democracy activists and lawmakers have accused the police of standing by as men dressed in white attacked commuters and protesters at a mass transit station in Yuen Long, leaving 45 hospitalised.
Lily Kuo in Beijing and Verna Yu in Hong KongLily Kuo in Beijing and Verna Yu in Hong Kong
Protesters who barged into the legislative council building graffitied political slogans on walls, spraypainted Hong Kong’s official emblem inside the chamber and blacked out the faces of pro-Beijing LegCo presidents’ portraits. Among the graffiti on the wall, one said: “People will rise up when the authorities pushed them to the brink.” A black banner displayed at the front of the chamber read: “There are no rioters, only violent regimes.” A British colonial-era flag was also put up by the protesters.Protesters who barged into the legislative council building graffitied political slogans on walls, spraypainted Hong Kong’s official emblem inside the chamber and blacked out the faces of pro-Beijing LegCo presidents’ portraits. Among the graffiti on the wall, one said: “People will rise up when the authorities pushed them to the brink.” A black banner displayed at the front of the chamber read: “There are no rioters, only violent regimes.” A British colonial-era flag was also put up by the protesters.
Others messages scrawled on the walls demanded the government implement universal suffrage, withdraw the extradition bill, refrain from calling the 12 June protest a riot, drop charges against protesters and investigate alleged police brutality.Others messages scrawled on the walls demanded the government implement universal suffrage, withdraw the extradition bill, refrain from calling the 12 June protest a riot, drop charges against protesters and investigate alleged police brutality.
“The spraypainting was meant to be an insult to the government and the legislative system,” said the young man, insisting that protesters had been making a political statement but had not looted the place. He said he had left money for drinks he took and urged others not to wreck interior decorations.“The spraypainting was meant to be an insult to the government and the legislative system,” said the young man, insisting that protesters had been making a political statement but had not looted the place. He said he had left money for drinks he took and urged others not to wreck interior decorations.
“Why did we need to escalate our actions? Because there is so much anger and dissatisfaction. We’ve given them deadlines for our demands again and again. So many people died already and the government still won’t respond,” he said.“Why did we need to escalate our actions? Because there is so much anger and dissatisfaction. We’ve given them deadlines for our demands again and again. So many people died already and the government still won’t respond,” he said.
Most of the protesters interviewed by the Guardian said they were incensed by the government’s callousness for failing to respond to the recent deaths of three people, including a 21-year-old student, who killed themselves after leaving behind messages in protest to the extradition law.Most of the protesters interviewed by the Guardian said they were incensed by the government’s callousness for failing to respond to the recent deaths of three people, including a 21-year-old student, who killed themselves after leaving behind messages in protest to the extradition law.
“Everything that has happened is the result of the government ignoring us – they asked for it,” another young man said. “If we don’t come out, Hong Kong will collapse!”“Everything that has happened is the result of the government ignoring us – they asked for it,” another young man said. “If we don’t come out, Hong Kong will collapse!”
Another demonstrator who had entered the building said: “We all know that the rioting charge carries 10 years in jail, but why did we still do it? It’s because we have utterly lost hope in this place.”Another demonstrator who had entered the building said: “We all know that the rioting charge carries 10 years in jail, but why did we still do it? It’s because we have utterly lost hope in this place.”
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