Freed student activist Joshua Wong calls on 'evil' Hong Kong leader to quit as protesters surround her office

  • Video report by ITV News Asia Correspondent Debi Edward

Hong Kong's most prominent student activist has joined protesters after being freed from prison and called for the city's "evil" leader to step down.

After his release, Joshua Wong joined the latest round of protests demanding Chief Executive Carrie Lam abandon a proposed extradition bill, which would allow criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China, Taiwan and Macau from Hong Kong.

The bill has stoked fears of expanding control from Beijing in this former British colony.

Protesters had begun to leave the streets on Monday after more mass protests the day before but a group moved to surround 62-year-old Ms Lam's office in a bid to press for her resignation.

The mostly young demonstrators blocked a street Monday near the city's waterfront as they stood outside her office.

Protesters near the Legislative Council are calling for Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam to step down. Credit: AP

Critics worry that allowing some suspects to be sent for trial in mainland China would be another of many steps chipping away at Hong Kong’s freedoms and legal autonomy.

One concern is that the law might be used to send criminal suspects to China to potentially face vague political charges, possible torture and unfair trials.

Ms Lam suspended the bill on Saturday, following widespread protests, but almost two million people took to the city's streets on Sunday, calling for it to be scrapped altogether.

Protesters wearing protection gears march toward the Legislative Council as they continue to voice opposition. Credit: AP

Mr Wong has served two months of a three-month sentence for contempt relating to the so-called "Umbrella Protests" in 2014 which advocated a more democratic elections process.

The 22-year-old's sentence was reduced as he was only a teenager when he was arrested.

Mr Wong also won an appeal of a separate conviction and six-month sentence for unlawful assembly.

Speaking outside Lai Chi Kok Correctional Facility, Mr Wong praised the demonstrators and called on Ms Lam to resign.

Protesters sing after a march against an extradition bill outside the Legislative Council in Hong Kong. Credit: AP

"Thanks for millions of Hong Kong people joined the demonstrations and protest in the past few weeks," the student activist said.

"It showed the spirit and dignity of the Hong Kong people.

"What we ask for is to urge that Carrie Lam, the evil Chief Executive, should withdraw the extradition amendment,and what we try to do is just proceed with disobedience and direct action, and let the whole world, let the international community realise how Hong Kong's people, we will not be silenced under this oppression of President Xi and the Chief Executive Carrie Lam.

"Carrie Lam must step down, otherwise, I believe in the next few weeks before the 22nd anniversary of Hong Kong's transfer of sovereignty, more and more Hong Kong people - not only one million or two million people - will come and join our fight until the day we get back our basic human rights and freedom."

  • What are the protests all about? Natalia Jorquera explains

Protesters in Hong Kong left the streets on Monday morning and moved to areas near the city’s government headquarters, averting possible clashes with police after haggling for hours with them.

The movement of the demonstrators has allowed police to open roads which had been blocked by them since Sunday.

The demonstrators had stayed in place after a massive protest march the day before.

The activists have rejected an apology from Ms Lam for her handling of the legislation, which has stoked fears of expanding control from Beijing in this former British colony.

“We are very angry that Carrie Lam has not responded to the demands of all the protesters, but now is the time to talk about strategy, and talk about strategy is to how about how to make the whole struggle into a long-term struggle and not a day struggle, so if Carrie Lam does not respond to the five demands by the protesters, people will come back and the struggle will continue,” said Lee Cheuk-yan, a former legislator and activist.

Around two million Hong Kong residents gathered for another massive protest on Sunday Credit: AP

On Monday, activists had called on Hong Kong residents to boycott classes and work, though it was unclear how many heeded the call.

Nearly two million of the city’s seven million people turned out on Sunday, according to estimates by protest organisers.

Meanwhile police said 338,000 were counted on the designated protest route in the “peak period” of the march.

A week earlier, as many as one million people demonstrated to voice their concern over Hong Kong’s relations with mainland China in one of the toughest tests of the territory’s special status since Beijing took control in a 1997 handover.

The scenes were similar to those seen nearly five years earlier, when protesters camped for weeks in the streets to protest rules that prevented the direct election of the city’s chief executive, the top local official.

Police officers stand guard as protesters march toward the Legislative Council Credit: Vincent Yu/AP

Protesters are also angered over the use of tear gas, rubber bullets, and other forceful tactics by police when demonstrators broke through barricades outside the city government’s headquarters to quell unrest during demonstrations on Wednesday, and over Ms Lam’s decision to call the clashes a riot.

That worsens the potential legal consequences for those involved.

In a statement issued late on Sunday, Ms Lam noted the demonstrations and said the government “understands that these views have been made out of love and care for Hong Kong”.

“The chief executive apologises to the people of Hong Kong for this and pledges to adopt a most sincere and humble attitude to accept criticisms and make improvements in serving the public,” it said.

Pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong pays respect to a protester who fell to his death after hanging a protest banner against an extradition bill in Hong Kong Credit: Kin Cheung/AP
  • Have there been any arrests?

Hong Kong's police commissioner says only people who committed violence will be charged with rioting during clashes between police and protesters outside the legislature on Wednesday, in an apparent attempt to defuse widespread public anger over aggressive police tactics.

Stephen Lo Wai-chung on Monday defended the police response to the protests by tens of thousands of people as appropriate.

It included the use of tear gas, rubber bullets and steel batons against protesters who removed barriers. He described the fracas as a riot, but said only five of 15 arrested people were accused of rioting, a serious charge that can result in a prison term of up to 10 years.

Another 17 people were arrested in the vicinity on lesser charges.