NGOs and democracy rights activists held a press conference outside the Hong Kong Cultural and Economic Affairs office in Taipei on Wednesday morning to speak out against the planned amendments to Hong Kong's extradition law that would allow China to apply to extradite Hong Kong citizens to the PRC mainland. Subsequently a sit-in was held outside the office attended mainly by Hong Kong students in Taiwan, that continued until the early evening.

The second reading of the bill was scheduled to be held this afternoon, with a vote to made on June 20th. Despite 1 in 7 Hong Kong citizens expressing their opposition to the planned changes at protests on Sunday - where organizers estimated just over a million in attendance - the government remained adamant it would pass the law with the second reading set for today's session in the LegCo (Legislative Council). The government stance is that the amendments close a loophole that allows fugitives to find harbor in Hong Kong. Opponents counter that the amendments will open the door to political suppression from the mainland as case-by-case extradition requests will be conducted without proper legislative oversight and once extradited the person would be at the mercy of China's opaque judicial system.


Cat Thomas

NGOs held a press conference early Wednesday, 12 June.

Local TV cameras and press dominated the front lines at the press conference as speakers, including Hong Kong Bookseller Wing-kei Lam (林榮基) expressed their support for protesters in Hong Kong and warned of the dangers the amendments posed to not only Hong Kongers, but anyone passing through the area. Meanwhile general attendees who had arrived for the planned sit-in hovered around the edges.

Shirley, who originally moved to Taiwan as an expat and is now living here permanently said "I'm here today because I am simply from Hong Kong and I really feel for everyone there. My girlfriend told me there is an online petition to show that we are opposing this bill being passed by the LegCo in Hong Kong. So I'm going to also go on line and sign that. I can't do much from afar, but at least we have to let them hear our voice.”

Once the press conference had concluded the sit-in commenced in front of the office - timed to coincide with the scheduled start of the LegCo session at 11am. A few speakers, including Mr Lam, addressed the crowd and ran some chants. A large screen TV was set up to display livestreams from Hong Kong. Once it was announced that Hong Kong Legco President Andrew Leung (梁智鴻) had decided to postpone the reading until an unspecified later date the crowd of around 300-400 settled in to observe the Live Stream of action from the streets surrounding the Leg Co. The majority appeared to be Hong Kong students studying in Taiwan, however there were also older faces among the crowd. The mood was subdued and watchful.


Cat Thomas

Wing-Kei Lam gives a speech to the students at a sit-in outside the Hong Kong Office in Taipei on Wednesday, 12 June.

Milk, a student from Hong Kong, said he decided to attend to "support the protesters in Hong Kong." Asked if he had friends or family taking part in protests he replied“Of course. Honestly, I am quite worried about my friends, their safety. You can see how the Hong Kong Police [may] attack them without any sense.”

Despite the large presence outside the building, and the posters and signs which the NGOs had affixed to the pillars, there was no indication that the officials in the Hong Kong Office on the 11th floor had any intention of acknowledging the protesters on their doorstep.

"I don't really think [that they are paying any attention]," noted Milk . "But this is a good place to organize the Hong Students. I think, the office, they don't really care about us.”

Chats with other attendees revealed a similar theme. They were gathered there not only to publicly express their dissent to the amendments but also to be together with those, like themselves, who had family members and friends in the tens of thousands in the streets of Hong Kong with the growing threat of police violence, that they might not be alone in their worries.

Students support each other as news breaks of excessive police violence

The protesters continued to brave the rain throughout the afternoon as events in Hong Kong unfolded. Tens of thousands of protesters jammed the streets around the LegCo and police fired tear gas and pepper spray sporadically but struggled to contain the crowds. Sean Kaiteri, a Taiwan resident from New Zealand who was attending the rally, described the mood as somber throughout the afternoon. As news spread through the crowd that a young protester in Hong Kong had been shot in the head by a police rubber bullet Kaiteri described "some howls of anguish and of course tears."


Cat Thomas

Umbrellas came out as rain began to fall.

At the end of the afternoon the organizers gathered the Hong Kong students to broadcast a message through a Hong Kong TV news film crew to their fellow citizens and the government. "We are 500-600 students in Taipei from Hong Kong, speaking out to Hong Kong and the rest of the world. We have seen the terrible violence of the police against the people of Hong Kong. This is our statement to the Hong Kong Government. Today the Hong Kong Government announced the debate for the extradition order is going to be delayed. This is just repeating the the same mistakes as at the Umbrella Movement in 2014." The statement went on to accuse the Hong Kong government as failing Hong Kongers and as having "become the puppet of the China government" that ignores the voices of the people of Hong Kong. They condemned the police for using violence against peaceful protesters and called on the government to "stop such actions" and immediately call off the extradition law. The group appealed to any Hong Kong students in Taiwan that possibly could go home, to do so immediately to help their fellow citizens.

The event concluded with a call for President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) meet the students tomorrow when they will gather outside the presidential palace from 9 am onward. The group invited all to attend stressing that numbers were important to help support their cause.

Taiwan's Digital Minister places responsibility for unrest on the PRC

Earlier in the afternoon, while visiting an exhibition on the five year anniversary of the Sunflower Movement at Taipei's Red Room on Wednesday afternoon, Digital Minister Audrey Tang (唐鳳) responded to a request for comment from the News Lens on the situation in Hong Kong by firmly placing the responsibility for the unrest on the shoulders of the PRC due to their failure to meet up to their commitments under the UN Sustainable Development Agenda.

"I think the Hong Kong Protest is mostly about people currently looking at the PRC and seeing that in terms of Sustainable Development Goals. The 16th goal is about a strong institution for a fair justice system. I'm sure that if the PRC have reached those goals, and if they are independently assessed as having the same fair trial system as people in Hong Kong enjoy then there won't be as much outrage towards this extradition law. The reason why they went to the street is that the people can plainly see that the right to the rule of law and the right to a fair trial, and things like that, are at the moment not present in the PRC to the same level as we enjoy in Taiwan and they enjoy in Hong Kong. Also, they are not showing a very encouraging trend of improving rapidly over time. And so, if the PRC wants Hong Kong to adopt this extradition law I think it's best if they can just focus on implementing correctly the sixteenth goal of the sustainable goals and making their trial process fair and transparent and generally trusted by the international community. Only then would the legitimacy of the extradition law make sense to the overseas community and also everyone concerned with this protest, including people in Taiwan.”