Hong Kong Lawmaker: 'Our Demands Are Reasonable'
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
We're going to start this hour by following up on two significant international stories. Later, we're going to hear more about conditions in Kashmir after India imposed severe restrictions on communications and movement there earlier this month. But we're going to start with the latest demonstrations in Hong Kong. Earlier today, protesters rallied at a large public park. But they couldn't all fit there, so they gathered and marched throughout the city. It's being reported that today's protest is the largest since demonstrations began weeks ago and was peaceful. The images were powerful - wave upon wave of umbrellas and tens of thousands of protesters filling the rainy streets.
You'll remember that the protests began in response to a controversial extradition bill with China. Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam has since called the bill dead, but that hasn't satisfied demonstrators, whose demands now include an inquiry into police brutality, greater democratic freedoms and that Lam step down. Now, we've heard from demonstrators from time to time, but today, we wanted to hear from someone in an official capacity to see how this is all being navigated, so we've called on Alvin Yeung. He is a member of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong, and he is the leader of the pro-democracy Civic Party.
Mr. Yeung, thank you so much for joining us.
ALVIN YEUNG: Thank you for having me.
MARTIN: So I'm going to start by asking about the protest. It's clear that the announcement that this extradition bill is dead or has been tabled is not sufficient. What would you say is the main goal of protesters at this point?
YEUNG: We demand that the bill to be formally withdrawn now. When the chief executives call it the bill is dead, it's not technically dead. It's still on the agenda of the Legislative Council, so we demand a formal withdrawal of that. That's number one. And among the five demands that protesters have been demanding for two months, one of them is, as you mentioned earlier, that it is an independent inquiry to look into police misconduct and brutality. That is something so simple that any open and civil society would do. But then this government has been refusing to set up a commission to look into that. And more importantly, of course, is a democratic system.
MARTIN: And, as I mentioned, the difference between you and the majority of protesters, frankly, is that you are a lawmaker, and there have been clashes with the police. Does this put pressure on you in some way? For example, are you being seen as somehow responsible for this? Are you expected to take some responsibility for this or do something about that?
YEUNG: We have been trying to call for peaceful demonstrations. But over countless numbers of peaceful protests, it is understandable that some of the protesters would escalate their actions because the government has been turning a blind eye to our demands. One of the rare qualities and unique qualities of this protesters is whenever we make something that might not be well accepted by the public, they would have the capacity and capability to self-reflect on what they did and apologize publicly.
MARTIN: As we mentioned, the protests earlier were the largest - or at least according to the reports. And from what we can see visually, they seem to be the largest since they began weeks ago. If - can I ask, what is the strategy here? Is there some sense of a pathway to success?
YEUNG: All I can say is Hong Kong people are determined, and we are not easy to give up. We wish to be as peaceful as possible to tell not Hong Kong people and Beijing but also to the rest of the world that our demands are reasonable. Our demands are highly sensible. And it is the Hong Kong government that should be responsible for all this. As to strategy, Hong Kong people has been learning from Bruce Lee, the cultural master, that we have to be water. So whenever we can, we would show our force, show our power and determination. But we would try to avoid having clashes with the police.
MARTIN: The Guardian is reporting that Chinese troops have been deployed to Shenzhen, China, which is on the other side of the bay from Hong Kong. Do you have a sense of how you would respond if China decides to use force to control these protests?
YEUNG: Of course, we share the same fear. In Hong Kong, people has been under threat by Beijing that they would use force, be it the army or the armed police. But they are the same nature. Of course, Hong Kong people would suffer if they dared to deploy troops to Hong Kong. But also, that would declare the end of one country, two systems. They will also certify the death of this international financial center. I would say not only Hong Kong people would suffer but also Beijing will suffer. Leadership of Beijing, their personal investments, will also suffer. I can only say is we are trying everything we can to avoid bloodshed, and we wish they would never adopt that strategy.
MARTIN: And finally, before we let you go, I want to note that there are people in Hong Kong who are pro-government or pro-regime as it currently exists - that they say that they're happy with the way the chief executive's running Hong Kong. There was even a rally Saturday in response to the anti-government protesters. Are you engaging with this group of people in some way? What kind of dialogue are you having with them? What do they say to you, and what do you say to them?
YEUNG: Hong Kong is a free and liberal society. Anybody can take their political stance freely. But our message to those people who are standing with the government is, look - police brutality is something beyond doubt. Is that something that these people would support as well? These are all reasonable demands that those people standing with the government should also support.
MARTIN: That Alvin Yeung. He's a member of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong. He's the leader of the Civic Party.
Mr. Yeung, thank you so much for speaking with us today.
YEUNG: It's a pleasure. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.