The Hong Kong government on Monday declared that central government offices would be closed for the day as the city braced itself for workers’ strikes after a record turnout at Sunday’s rally protesting a divisive extradition Bill.
An official notice released on Monday morning said: “As the access roads in the vicinity of the the Central Government Offices (CGO) are blocked, CGO will still be temporarily closed today (June 17).
“Staff working in the CGO should not go to the workplace and should work in accordance with the contingency plans of their respective bureaus or departments. All visits to the CGO will be postponed or cancelled.”
Millions took to the streets over two consecutive weekends in a show of force that prompted an apology from embattled Chief Executive Carrie Lam. On Sunday, organisers said two million took part in a march whereas the police placed the figure at 340,000. The tabling of the Bill was indefinitely postponed on Saturday but many fear it could be reintroduced after public pressure has eased.
Building on the momentum, protest organiser the Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF) has called on Hong Kongers to go on strike on Monday in a bid to pressure the territory’s government to meet their demands.
It did not specify how many strikers it was expecting.
Chief on the CHRF’s list of demands are a complete withdrawal of the extradition Bill, rescinding the characterisation of protesters as rioters, and Mrs Lam’s resignation.
Mrs Lam in particular has faced strong criticism for her handling of the crisis and has been accused by protesters of being arrogant, ignorant of the wishes of Hong Kongers and aloof.
The police have also been criticised for their heavy-handed tactics during a June 9 mass protest, which descended into violent clashes, and again last Wednesday (June 12), during which rubber bullets and tear gas were used against demonstrators.
Hundreds of protesters had massed around the legislature on Wednesday to prevent lawmakers from entering and debating the Bill.
If enacted, the law would have allowed one-off extraditions with jurisdictions with whom Hong Kong does not have a permanent agreement, including mainland China.
But Hong Kongers are worried this is yet another sign of eroding freedom under Beijing, and fear the law could be used on political dissidents or activists.
Under the “one country, two systems” agreement, the city is guaranteed a “high-level autonomy” and has a separate judiciary and Constitution from the mainland. Its residents are also allowed freedoms unseen in the rest of China, including a free press and the right to protest.