Around a dozen hunger strikers led a march to Government House on Monday evening to demand a dialogue with Chief Executive Carrie Lam in the latest offshoot of the citywide anti-extradition protests.
Organisers said that 2,400 people showed up to march in solidarity with the activists, many of whom were in their twelfth day of fasting.
The march was proposed by one of the strikers, preacher Roy Chan of the Good Neighbourhood North District Church, and was meant to protest the government’s lack of response to the public’s demands.
At a press conference last week, the hunger strikers said their actions were aligned with the five “core demands”: a complete withdrawal of the extradition bill, the formation of an independent commission of inquiry into police behaviour, the retraction of the “riot” characterisation of the June 12 protests, and an unconditional release of all arrested protesters.
At around 7pm, large crowds walked from Admiralty Centre – the hunger strikers’ base – and proceeded to the chief executive’s official residence a kilometre away.
Chan Ki-kau, a 73-year-old resident of Ma Shi Po village and the eldest among the hunger strikers, addressed the public before the march.
“I was heartbroken by the clashes yesterday in Sha Tin,” Chan wrote in a letter, which was read out by another striker. Both police officers and protesters were “in pain,” Chan said, and called for a stop to the violence.
Chan also made a plea to young people to cherish their lives, citing the protest slogan “we come together and leave together.”
On Sunday evening, Chan made a brief appearance at New Town Plaza and placed himself in front of riot police, in an attempt to bring a stop to the violence.
Marchers arrived at Government House at around 9:20pm, with some hunger strikers in wheelchairs due to their weakening condition. They handed a letter to a police representative, but stayed behind in the hope of an audience with the chief executive.
Lawmaker Fernando Cheung, who joined the hunger strike last Wednesday, said he tried to contact the Director of the Chief Executive’s Office Eric Chan but was unsuccessful. According to Cheung, Chan sent a message at 9:42pm and promised to give an answer within 15 minutes, but then stopped replying.
Lam, who was reportedly at a hotel banquet at the time, did not make an appearance.
Marchers decided to retreat back to Admiralty Centre shortly before 11pm, after some of the hunger strikers showed signs of worsening health. Chan Ki-kau stopped fasting later on Monday night after seeking medical advice, and had to be hospitalised as a precautionary measure.
After arriving at Government House, protesters stuck notes onto the walls lining the compound and turned them into an ad-hoc “Lennon Wall” message board.
Uniformed police officers, some of whom were equipped with riot gear, were present at the scene but made no move to interfere.
The extradition bill would allow the city to handle case-by-case fugitive transfers to jurisdictions with no prior arrangments, including China. Critics have said residents are at risk of extradition to the mainland, which lacks human rights protections. Large-scale protests since June have since morphed into wider displays of dissent over dwindling freedoms, democracy, alleged police brutality and other community grievances. On July 9, Lam declared the bill “dead,” but did not enact any mechanism to withdraw it or agree to step down.