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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Chaos In Hong Kong As Protesters Try To Break Into Legislature Building, Smashing Objects Into Glass Doors. Aired 4-5a ET
Aired July 1, 2019 - 04:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us. I'm Max Foster in London. We're following breaking news out of Hong Kong as the city is once again consumed by massive protests.
This is the scene outside the Legislative Council. Protesters are trying to break in to the building there as you can see. Smashing objects in to the glass doors.
They are in a standoff with riot police, who you can see on the inside there on the right. Police have warned that they're ready and they will respond if protesters break through and in to the building. All this comes ahead of the planned anti-government march taking place right now.
The public outcry gained some controversial extradition bill growing ever louder. The government has shelved it, but not completely scrapped it which is what the protesters want and have sparked these scenes that you see before us right now. Anna Coren is there following developments for us from Hong Kong, Anna.
ANNA COREN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, Max. We saw a short time ago protesters smash through the glass doors at the Legislative Council building. They had been ramming it with a steel sage and a trolley for almost a half an hour.
And riot police just stood on the other side watching. They had their shields, their batons and their helmets waiting for those protesters to pierce through, penetrate through. Well, they did in the last 20 minutes. We're also getting reports that protesters are using steel rods to smash those glass doors.
It's a building made up of glass panels and there are now hundreds of police inside and outside. Just over our shoulder, there are hundreds, 400 if not more riot police who have assembled and are waiting for orders.
So this is an extremely tense standoff which we know is going to come to heads very, very soon. And Nic Robertson is in the thick of it. Nic described the same to us.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: I know it's absolutely extraordinary as you say. Extraordinary because this is the government buildings here that the police are standing on the inside. The protesters are smashing the outside of the government buildings.
It's extraordinary because this standoff is so tense. It's been going on for a couple of hours now. It's extraordinary because there are so many cameras live covering this event. In there behind the rows of riot police who are behind those shields, with their gas masks on some of them, you have lines of reporters.
Outside here again, the crowd you see with a lot of other reporters and journalists. And the protesters are literally trying to smash through that glass behind me. They are a few meters behind me. And every time they make a charge, every time they move forward, the crowd starts chanting for them, chanting for them to get through that glass.
The glass is slowly tearing. The panel's eight foot high. It sounds like they're about to charge again. They've torn it through. They go forward, the police move forward with their pepper spray. This is the routine here now.
The protesters trying to tear and tear slowly in to a bigger hole in the glass, the cheers go up. The police use the pepper spray. They're ready on the inside with their batons. I see the police moving to the window. This is a confrontation that's been building and building, the tensions building over the last couple of hours.
At the moment, the police have been waiting on the inside. They only move forward to confront -- excuse me, to confront the crowd as the crowd seems to get through that glass. But the glass is weakened. The tear is getting bigger. It's not just tear now, I've just looked over my shoulder and I can see clearly a hole in the lower half of that glass.
So there's only a matter of time before the glass goes through. The police will have to decide how are they going to handle this? What is their next move going to be? We're looking at a handful if police behind the glass doors here inside the Leg-Co (ph) building.
It looks like the police are preparing for something now. But of course there are about 30,000 police, 32,000 on deployment in the city at the moment. They can be brought in to this area from other areas. But this is the front line if you will in this confrontation.
Hundreds of thousands of protesters in this city here peacefully, hundreds of thousands peacefully but probably several hundred here in a very confrontational move trying to take on the police, trying to get through that glass, trying to have a showdown with police at this location.
It is a standoff but a hugely tense standoff, and one that could not have been envisioned those 22 years ago when Britain handed Hog Kong back to mainland China for their -- for rule here. [04:05:00]
This was what was commemorated earlier in the day with that flag raising ceremony. This is the antifascist of that, if you will. This is absolutely unruly but it is getting more coverage than the flag raising, all the protests that's peacefully happening on the streets elsewhere in the city.
COREN: Yes, Nice, it's a very good question. What are the police going to do next because they have allowed these protesters for almost an hour and a half to slam in to those glass doors using that metal trolley cage and actually penetrate those glass doors. They allowed that to happen.
Nowhere else in the world, in a developed world like an international financial hub like Hong Kong would police standby and allow this to happen and yet they stood there inside the Legislative Council building and allowed the protesters to do this while they filmed them.
Now we saw police brutality on the 12th of June. Police did not hold back. They fired rubber bullets, they fired tear gas. Today they do seem to be more restrained. And as you say Nic, the world is watching. The world is watching these pictures.
ROBERTSON: Yes. And in the words of the British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who issued a statement last night saying that the British government will be watching very closely because the agreement for the hand over of Hong Kong in 1997 was part of an internationally agreed plan that was agreed and signed in 1984.
And this is something that was registered with the UN. This is something that British government works closely -- well, British government is pointing to today. That it's essentially the right to protesters here to protest. But of course the police were called out for their behavior on the 12th of June.
Many people said why did the police respond so quickly? Why did they go from a sort of zero starters to confrontation with water cannon, with batten round, batten rounds, they're a very serious large heavy object fired from a gun at a crowd and gives serious injuries. They also used pepper spray, CS gas on that day.
So what we're seeing from the police now is a more restrained response. And perhaps it's because of the international criticism that they received on the 12th of June.
But also because the police -- or the police action on the 12th of June precipitated this response, which essentially denied the legislature here the speedy and quick route to passing the extradition bill that they wanted to use to extradite in some extreme cases fugitives here, criminals here in Hong Kong to mainland China for trial.
So the police response that day hampered the government's action. Carrie Lam here, the chief executive has not backed away from that. She just out it n hold. So it seems clear that the police are acting with more restraint because the act with less restraint will be counter productive for what this current government here wants to achieve.
Counter productive in the eyes of the international community. But as you've been asking your guests, faced with the confrontations that police are being faced with here today, this is not what would be allowed to happen let's say if this was in London or Washington.
The police would not be expected to act with so much restraint when the government buildings were being attacked. The dynamic here is different. Heavily watched, heavily scrutinized and that's what we're seeing play out here today.
COREN: Nic, obviously just over two weeks ago we saw two million people take to the streets here in Hong Kong. They were peaceful protests, peaceful demonstrations and need to be lidless demonstrations. There is not one person, one organization that is leading these marches, leading these demonstrators.
And so many of these demonstrators are in fact students, students on their university breaks, students who have so much at stake, I mean there is a sense of desperation here. It is not just that very controversial extradition bill that would allow for extradition to mainland China.
It is the future of Hong Kong, these young people's future because they can feel the encroachment of China. They know that their freedoms that they have enjoyed for the last 22 years are being eroded and this is happening much faster than anyone could imagine.
So in actual fact, this extradition bill has turned in to something so much larger. This is young people fighting for Hong Kong's freedom. What sense are you getting from the people down there? How prepared are they willing to go in their fight for Hong Kong?
ROBERTSON: I get the impression they're prepared to go as far as they need to go. That is a non-answer in a way, but these people have come here prepared for confrontation, prepared to show that feeling, that sense of erosion that outsiders may not get. They may think this is just a piece of legislation.
But no, as you rightfully say that is the tip of the iceberg of what people have feared here that they would fall under mainland rule and lose the freedoms that they have here, the freedom simply to demonstrate.
People are here today, in their hundreds of thousands peacefully, they fear they would lose that simple right as well as many, many others. And to give you a sense to the point that you are saying that no one person controls this situation here amongst the protesters.
While we have been talking in the last few minutes, I see a lot of protesters have moved away to other locations behind me. It's hard to tell where they're going. This is a moment; this has been a point of confrontation. It seems to be an ad right now. Where are the other protesters going? We don't know at the moment, Anna.
COREN: Again Nic Robertson following the situation down outside the Legislation Council building. Please standby. Joining me again is Emily Lau, she is an activist but also a former pro-democracy lawmaker.
To an international audience that is watching this, they would say Carrie Lam, the city's chief executive; she has shelved the extradition bill. Why are these people still out there protesting? Why are they smashing up the Legislative Council building? What is at stake here, Emily?
EMILY LAU, FORMER CHAIRWOMAN, THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Well, I think those who are protesting are saying why don't you withdraw the bill completely? Because a few days ago, there was rumor that she would reactivate the bill after the summer break. And of course the government came out to deny it.
So if you don't withdraw it completely, these rumors will be there. And again I want to tell your international viewers that most Hong Kong people are peaceful protesters. Those that we see, well, not yet proven but they were here supporting the police yesterday. And that need to be proven.
COREN: Well, that is a rumor. That is a rumor. We can't confirm that. But you are saying that these are agitators who came to demonstrations for the government in support of the government and supported the police. And they are now here agitating.
LAU: They want to ruin the image of Hong Kong being a city of very peaceful protests. And they want--
COREN: And Emily--
LAU: -- also confirm that there are riots.
COREN: Emily, there are students down there outside the Legislative Council building who spent and hour and a half ramming, ramming metal cage in to glass doors. They have steel rods--
LAU: I'm not saying it was the students, that's why--
COREN: Well, they are protesters. They are Hong Kong protesters who are doing that.
COREN: I mean these are people who are feeling a sense of desperation. They can see the clock ticking towards 2047 when Hong Kong is fully absorbed in to China. These people are fighting for their future.
LAU: Well, that is true. But what I am trying to say again is outside there are people marching already as you know all very peaceful. There may be some down there the action we do not condone at all. In fact, we condemn forms of violence. But you are right in saying that these youngsters and those not so young are very concerned about our future. And we are grateful to the international community for giving us wall to wall coverage in the last few weeks. So I hope Beijing would not crack down on us. That's the fear.
COREN: Well, let me ask you about Beijing because we know that none of these pictures are being shown on the mainland. How would Xi Jinping, the Chinese leader be feeling right now? Do these protests make him and his government look weak?
LAU: Well, I don't know. I cannot follow his brain. But we have read all kinds of stories saying he's very concerned. He's worried--
COREN: But it doesn't look good, Emily.
LAU: No, it doesn't.
COREN: This does not look good. And you know that China will react.
LAU: Yes, China could crack down. But I tell you again, this is Hong Kong. It's not Tiananmen Square. But the people are liberating armies just over there. So, I mean if one false move and the whole thing could blow up. And we don't want that to happen.
So I again ask our peaceful protesters, the youngsters to really exercise some self control. But if there are other people provoking you, you just go away. And show them up for what they are.
And we want the international community to see the real Hong Kong, which is a peaceful and orderly Hong Kong. But very frightened, frightened about a communist crackdown.
COREN: OK. Emily Lau, we thank you for speaking to us on this day, a very conflicted day obviously celebrating the 22nd anniversary of the Hong Kong handover from Britain to mainland China.
But instead we are seeing ugly scenes outside the Legislative Council building here in Hong Kong. Stay with CNN, much more on this coming up after the break.
COREN: Anna Coren live from Hong Kong where we have witnessed some ugly scenes between protesters and police on the 22nd anniversary of the Hong Kong Andover from Britain to mainland China.
We have witnessed scenes outside the Legislative Council building behind me just a few hundred meters away where protesters have rammed a metal cage on a trolley through glass doors. There are dozens of riot police on the other side. There is a tense standoff going on.
[04:20:00] We also know that protesters have been using steel rods to slam those glass windows and doors as well trying to storm that building. Police have raised their red flag telling protesters to stop or they will use force. Behind us there are hundreds of riot police ready to go once they get that command.
But at the moment, there is a tense standoff happening here. But it is something that we just get a sense is going to break very, very soon. Well joining us now here from Hong Kong is Ronny Tong; he is a member of the executive council and is pro-Beijing. Ronny, what do you make of what is happening here at the Legislative Council?
RONNY TONG, MEMBER, EXECUTIVE COUNCIL TO CHIEF EXECUTIVE: Well, I'm sitting in front of the television set and I'm alarmed by the degree of violence which is being perpetrated by the so-called protesters.
I fear that such violence will escalate very soon in to something tragic which nobody wants to see. So, I really hope that the people challenging the authority of the police and trying to rush in to the Legislative Council building would back off.
COREN: Ronny, do you sympathize with these protesters whatsoever? I mean these are people who say that they are fighting for Hong Kong's future, whoa re having to use force to get the attention of the Hong Kong government who has refused to listen to it's demands?
TONG: I can't believe anybody who'd believe in what they are saying. I think by challenging the rule of law which is appropriate, the only core value that we treasure most (inaudible) country to assistance is not helping to save the future of Hong Kong, certainly not to save it.
I think no political slogan can justify such violence. And all I can see is that the police is exercising exceeding restraint. But I fear that restraint would not last very long.
COREN: They are certainly showing restraint, very different to what we witnessed on June 12th in those ugly clashes between the police and protesters in which more than 80 people were injured. But what would you like to see police do?
I mean they have allowed these protesters to ram that steel cage in to those glass doors for an hour and a half. Nowhere else in the developed world would police just stand by and watch, allowing members of the public to basically vandalize public property. So why are these police standing back? Why are they restraining themselves now?
TONG: Well, I think because of all these accusations which have been flying against the police over the last week or so, I think makes them want to think twice before moving in to action.
And particularly I think they don't want to escalate the situation over here because there are literally hundreds of thousands of marchers who are marching from the Victoria Park towards this area.
And I suspect the fear that any escalation of violence here might effect the sentiment of the peacefully marchers who are coming this way. So I think they are trying to contain the situation as much as they can.
COREN: Yes, that's absolutely right. There are tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of protesters making their way to where we are here at (inaudible) Park taking part in a very peaceful demonstration against that controversial extradition bill.
Ronny Tong, we certainly appreciate you speaking to us. Well let's now go to our Matt Rivers who has been following that peaceful protest. Matt, what can you tell us?
MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anna, we're about halfway or so between where this march started at Victoria Park and ultimately where it's going to end up in central Hong Kong there where you are.
And look, it's completely different than what's been going on at the Legislative Council building with a lot of those images that you've described. This has been a very, very peaceful march since the beginning. I'll step out of the way here and I'll let you see the lives pictures here. We're on a fly over -- a walk over above the main route here.
And this has been going on. We've been standing here for 45 minutes or so and the people keep coming, and they keep coming, and they keep coming. This is a march that has quite a bit of people involved in it. And it is completely peaceful at least at this point. There's a minimal police presence here.
People are chanting slogans that we've come to grow familiar with, go Hong Kong, many, many others, stand up for Hong Kong, they're holding signs.
And they have this unified message against the extradition bill, against what they call police brutality and against generally encroachment the way they see it from Beijing, from mainland China trying to takeaway some of the democratic style freedoms that Hong Kong has so long enjoyed.
And look, in terms of the numbers I mean it was two weeks ago roughly that organizers say two million participated in a march just like this one. I'm not sure we're going to reach those numbers today anecdotally speaking. I think there will probably be a few less people on the street than we saw two weeks ago.
But I can't really make a solid estimate of the crowd size. And I'm not really sure how much it matters overall given the energy that we're seeing here. The momentum is clearly still here whether you reach two million protesters, Anna, or whether it's a million or 500,000.
The fact is there are a lot of people on the street of Hong Kong right now protesting peacefully. And it's the large majority -- the vast majority of protesters are being peaceful and are trying to get their message across. Now, how this goes throughout the night, we'll have to wait and see as these people make their way towards where you are. But a very different scene here in one side of the neighborhood that's called where we are right now compared to what you're seeing in the spot where you are in (inaudible).
COREN: Yes. Matt, I want to ask you about that because as somebody who has lived in Beijing for the last four or five years, how do you think the Chinese government is viewing what is going on here in Hong Kong? Do they see this as a threat to their authority, to the communist party rule?
RIVERS: I mean there's no question that they look at this with uncomfort, discomfort to say the least, Anna. I mean Hong Kong is a part of China. And if it was Beijing's choice, they absolutely do not want to see things like this, scenes like this to the point where if they had ultimate control over this city, they wouldn't allow this protest.
There's 20 something million people in Beijing, 20 something million people in Shanghai, and that's triple the size of the city of Hong Kong. And you would never see a protest like this in mainland China because the government, the communist party does not tolerate descent.
They don't tolerate peaceful protests. They don't tolerate the free expression of ideas. And so when they look at something like this, I'm not sure if they look at this and think that it represents some sort of future threat to the stability of mainland China. I'm not sure that it goes that far.
But they certainly are afraid of scenes like this enough to sensor it in Chinese state media, Chinese social media, protests like this are being completely censored on certain websites, CNN signal has been blocked throughout the day. And so that to me shows you that China's government is afraid of its own people seeing images like this.
People who are technically apart of China, the country overall protesting and doing things that you could never do in the mainland. The communist party does not want the rest of mainland China to understand or to even think about doing something like this.
So, the level of threat they view this kind of protest with, I don't know exactly how they classify it. But I know for a fact that China's government does not want images like these to be broadcast throughout the country.
COREN: Well Matt, for the last two minutes of me speaking to you, there's just been a sea of people passing you. So obviously incredible numbers turning out and it doesn't matter if it's not the one million or two million as you say, there is still incredible momentum.
These people coming out in opposition to that very controversial extradition bill, but they're also fighting and campaigning for Hong Kong's future, Hong Kong's freedom which they don't want to see eroded by the encroachment of mainland China. Stay with CNN, we will have much more on this story coming up after the break.
COREN: Welcome back. I'm Anna Coren live from Hong Kong on the 22nd anniversary of the Hong Kong handover from Britain to mainland China and in the last few hours we've witnessed ugly scenes between protesters and police outside the Legislative Council Building which is just behind us. A few hundred meters protesters have been ramming a steel cage on a trolley through glass doors. They finally penetrated those reinforced glass doors after an hour and a half with police standing on the other side. We also know protesters have taken to those doors with steel bars, smashing those doors, trying to get inside the Legislative Council Building. There's a very tense standoff that's still taking place. The police are yet to act. Let's now go to our Nic Robertson who is in the thick of it. Nic, describe the scene to us.
ROBERTSON: Well Anna, in the last few hours as you said, it's been very intense down here. I'll have to say the atmosphere is a little bit calmer at the moment. We're at the very sort of epicenter of what we were watching before. Our camera had shots of people trying to smash through this window here. The reason that I can stand here now and look through the smashed bottom half of the window, at the line -- we're going to move.
The police don't want us any more forward. But the reason we can stand here Anna, is quite simply because having breached this window the protesters have stopped trying to smash into the building. This seems to be as far as they wanted to go. The police maintained their lines inside but pepper spray is still sort of dripping off the bottom of the glass here where they were spraying to the protesters every time they got close to the glass.
But this is the line. The police are very clearly saying that this is the line for them. They've stayed inside the building there. Every time the protesters looked like they were getting through they moved through with riot shields, gave pepper spray and then pulled back. The protesters themselves having smashed this, pulled down this large sheet of glass have now moved on elsewhere. So while this was a very tense, the real focal point of the violent part of what is a much larger peaceful demonstration across the city, this location at least, the tension has decreased for now.
The police maintaining their position inside. Protesters up here shouting, throwing eggs at this legislative building here. But unimaginable to think, as you were saying before, as we were discussing, that the administrative center of Hong Kong, if there was any other administrative center in any other capital around the world had been breached this way the outcome might have been different, certainly not something that was countered here perhaps because of their heavy handed attitudes in the past couple of weeks, what the police were accused of being heavy handed, today they are taking a much more stand back approach. Perhaps that's what we're seeing right now but of course, this day still very young, Anna. COREN: Yes, I mean it's quite extraordinary. Showing amazing
restraint from those riot police who were so quick to act on June 12th during those ugly clashes with the protesters.
They fired rubber bullets. They fired tear gas. There were more than 80 protesters who were injured and yet they allowed these protesters for an hour and a half to ram those glass doors. And just watch it happen. I find that quite remarkable that they would allow this to happen. I did see, Nic, during our coverage, that police inside the building were filming those protesters.
ROBERTSON: Oh, yes filming very closely, very carefully as they were filming us as well at the window. There's no doubt that what the police have been able to do is record those that they see at the forefront of the trouble here. Perhaps that will be for later prosecution. Perhaps as well to record their side of events, their version of what happened, to be able to see it through their eyes, so if in the eyes of the international community or the people in the community here where police were accused on June 12th being too heavy handed, too aggressive. Here police would have their own evidence from their own cameras and be able to say this is what happened.
What I was able to see, were officers directing their own camera crews on to specific situations that were happening on to apparently specific people. So I think the police are making a very thorough evidential record here of what has been transpiring for their own legal purposes. Holding back though it appears so as not to damage the legislative purposes of the government which the police's action setback those several weeks ago on June 12th because they produced the reaction overall from the population here was very negative to the heavy handed actions of police that they saw.
So clearly lessons have been learned. Whoever called police to swiftly act last time seems to be be calling upon them to act with greater restraint this time.
COREN: And Nic, you would have to assume there will be repercussions, that there will be arrests. As you say the day is only young. It's only gone to almost 4:45 in the afternoon. We can hear large crowds making their way towards where we are here in Tamar Park. Obviously that much from Victoria Park that that 3 kilometer route to us here at Tamar Park. So very soon there will be thousands of people here. Are we expecting there to be more violence over the coming hours? I mean there really is a potential for more violence, more clashes with police.
ROBERTSON: Well, of course, the government building here is hugely symbolic because people are protesting against the government's intent to continue at some point with that extradition legislation but it's also been focused at the police who they want to have investigated openly for, again, what they say were heavy-handed incidents with some of the protesters on the 12th of June. So the opportunity, if the police are out on the streets in numbers for some protesters to be drawn towards them would be there, but in the case of this building, unless the protestors chose to return here for another what appears to be symbolic attack on the heart of the government, unless they choose to do that, then for now the protests, the confrontational protest here seems to be over.
I think it's very hard to predict what the protesters will do. Part of that goes to the point you were making before that there's no sort of singular leadership particularly to the confrontational part of the protests. There is anger, there is frustration and there is fear about what happens if they don't register what they see as a potential significant shift away from the democracy and the values that they have grown-up with and cherished and that their parents have grown-up with and cherished and their grandparents grew up and cherished.
COREN: Yes, Nic as you say, these protesters, so many of them, young, have enjoyed the freedoms of one country two systems for the last 22 years ever since that handover in 1997. They don't want those freedoms to end. So this extradition bill, their opposition to this extradition bill is so much more than that. It is a fight for the future of Hong Kong. Nic Robertson, we thank you for your reporting. We'll be coming back to you a little bit later. Please stay with CNN. We're covering this story very closely. Much more after the break.
COREN: Welcome back. I'm Anna Coren live from Hong Kong where we've been witnessing those ugly clashes between protesters and police outside the Legislative Council building. Obviously they managed to penetrate the doors of that council building after an hour and a half of ramming a steel cage on a trolley through those glass doors.
There were police, riot police, dozens of them waiting for those protesters but they did not act, which was quite extraordinary. Well joining me now is Denise Ho. She is a pro-democracy activist as well as a very famous singer here in Hong Kong and across much of Asia.
Denise, the scenes that we have witnessed over the past couple of hours, how does that make you feel?
DENISE HO, CANTO-POP STAR AND PRO-DEMOCRACY ACTIVIST: I was very, very worried because I was at the rally on Victoria Park. And so when I saw the news, I just came over with my friends and just to support the students, because I think what we have seen in the past weeks is that the less people there are, the more violent the police will be.
So, I felt we just need to come over and to protect everyone.
COREN: What do you make, though, of the violence? I mean, we have seen these protestors basically vandalize public property. I mean, this is the Legislative Council building, it would be like attacking Westminster in London, the White House in Washington, D.C., this the Legislative Council building here in Hong Kong. HO: Right. I cannot really say, because the -- there have been, in
previous years, during the Umbrella Movement, we have seen people who pretended to be protestors and to be violent, so I'm not saying that those were, but I cannot say for sure what -- who's side they are really on. And so, in that aspect, I wasn't there at the moment, so I cannot really talk too much about that.
But in any case, I think that the most violence that we have seen have been from the government of Hong Kong. During these pasts three weeks the people have been on the streets daily, protesting and giving out demands of what we want and we had nothing from the government.
Two million, one million people on the streets and they really haven't responded to any of our requests, and also we lost three young lives in the past three weeks, and it's really a very devastating moment for the young people in Hong Kong. So, I think as adults we really need to be here in support of them and to condemn the government for not responding and just being tone deaf to everything that ...
COREN: Denise, there is a sense of desperation among ...
HO: Yes. Yes.
COREN: ... these young people. They aren't just fighting against this extradition bill, they're fighting for the future of Hong Kong and perhaps the international audience doesn't really understand that. They think you're in this semi-autonomous democracy, you have freedoms, what are you complaining about. But for somebody who lives here in Hong Kong, what are these young people fighting for?
HO: Well, for one thing, one country, two systems is eroded completely by the Hong Kong government and the communist government. We have seen many of our freedoms slip away and with this government who is not listening to the people, I think they young people, they do not see any hope in the future for them.
And so, the request that we have is very simple. We just want the autonomy that we were promised and also the universal suffrage that was promised to us in the basic law, which is still not happening. It was supposed to happen in 2008 and we are 11 years later and we still do now have a chief executive officer that is voted by the people. It was chosen by the communist government, which is unacceptable and we see the effects and the damage that it is causing to the society.
COREN: Speaking of the communist government, Xi Jingping's Chinese government, are you concerned how China is going to react to, I guess, the violent scenes that we have seen to these clashes with the police? Are you concerned that China is going to come down and come down hard?
HO: I think the young people who are on the streets for these few weeks, they have the preparation to fight on for a very long time, and whatever that comes, we will still be on the streets and still be fighting, because this is our home and if the Hong Kong government or the Chinese government, they were to use excessive violence, I think the international world will be here to see it and hopefully to condemn it, and this is a point where there is no going back. And I think I will be here for -- with the people, with the young students here.
COREN: It does feel like Hong Kong has changed, that it can't go back. Then when you have a quarter of the population turn out like they did two Sunday's ago, two million people turn out, how does Hong Kong go back to how it was before?
HO: I think this is a question that you might have to ask the Hong Kong government.
HO: This is not something that we can answer because we do not have that power, legal power to change things, only they have that power. And as long as they do not respond and they pretend that everything is fine, this will just keep going on.
And do we really want a society that is stuck at a place where they're -- the people are just so desperate that they can be here for that long period of time. And if Carrie Lam has any compassion in her, I think she really needs to respond to the people and the young people who are still on the streets fighting.
COREN: Denise Ho, great to speak you.
HO: Thank you so much.
COREN: Many thanks. Really appreciate it. Thank you. Well let's now go to our Matt Rivers who is with the protesters in that peaceful demonstration, that peaceful march. Matt, describe to us what you are seeing, what you are witnessing.
RIVERS: Yes, Anna, we've been on this flyover here, a walkover above this road. This is a main march route here. We're about halfway between where the march started and where you are and we've been here for probably about an hour now, and it's impressive to the numbers in terms of the amount of people that just keep coming. And I can show you here, you know, we've been here for an hour and the crowd has not thinned out. They just keep coming.
And if you want to go all the way up the road, you can see there's really no end in sight with these people. Even if you go (ph) all the way back, you know, we can't see the end of this yet, which means there are more and more people coming. And I think oftentimes, Anna, you know, there's always a question of well how many people are here, you know? It's always a big news headline in terms of, you know, over the last couple of weeks we saw a million people that first Sunday and then the following Sunday it was 2 million people. And ultimately I'm not sure how many people will be counted by organizers here today.
But I'm not sure that this specific number matters when you see scenes like this and you're -- you're here. The amount of energy that this crowd peacefully is putting out there -- they have a pretty unified message here, talking about the extradition bill, talking about overreach by Beijing, talking about wanting to protect the democratic style freedoms that Hong Kong has. You know, this is a pretty unified crowd but we've been watching people go underneath us for an hour now and what struck me is as opposed to what we're seeing at the legislative council building where a lot of the violence is happening -- and that's generally done by young people -- what you're seeing in this crowd -- you know, I've seen a lot of strollers.
I've seen a lot grandparents pushing their grandchildren. I've seen friends marching with each other. I've seen expats (ph), foreigners amidst the crowd. You've seen middle aged people. You know, there's definitely a more cross section of Hong Kong society taking part in this march. And I think that's kind of been a hallmark in a lot of ways, a defining characteristic of the protests that we've seen over the past couple of weeks as opposed to what we've seen in past years. There's more buy-in, I think, from a broader cross section of Hong Kong society than we had seen in past protests, and I think that goes to show you how seriously these people here take this threat, Anna, the -- what they would call a threat.
This extradition bill and all the stuff that surrounds it. You know, people here, despite the heat, despite the crowds, despite the traffic, they're here. And as you can see, it's not ending any time soon.
COREN: Yes, I mean this is quite incredible. This is now the third mass demonstration that we have seen in almost a month. You know, on the 9th of June we saw a million people, a week later 2 million people and now, two weeks later -- I mean, the whole time that we were speaking there was a sea of people just streaming past you. I was concerned that -- that maybe the violence that we've seen here at -- at -- at the legislative council, that may have put off -- off people. But from what you're describing and from the families that are turning out, that doesn't seem to be the case.
RIVERS: No, and it's a very legitimate thought that you had, that, you know, especially because we saw the violence relatively early this morning, you know, would that discourage people from coming out. And so far it certainly doesn't look like it. I mean, maybe we don't hit that 2 million number this time and ultimately it will be hours before we know that, but this is still a very impressive turn out and I can't stress enough that what we're seeing at the legislative council is not representative of the vast majority of this protest. It is peaceful, it is calm.
Yes, they have energy, yes they're passionate about what they're out here for. But looking don't, I don't see a cop where I am right now. There isn't people -- there aren't cops with riot gear all kitted out with batons and shields and helmets. There's just people slowly marching down the road, chanting political slogans, holding up their signs, trying to get their message across in a very peaceful way. And I think it's important that -- that we in the media, you know, are -- are -- are objective in looking at, you know, what -- what we're seeing. You know, the -- the violence is certainly, you know, very important to show but it's not indicative of what's going on throughout the rest of the city, at least at this point.
Now, who knows what happens through the rest of the night. When these people make their way to where you are, maybe it does get more tense. But for now it's a peaceful protest, it's a peaceful day and it's not going to end, at least for the next couple of hours.
COREN: It's quite incredible that this momentum is continuing ever since those -- those mass protests on the 9th of June. And -- and -- and, Matt, I -- I -- I guess, you know, I have to ask you as somebody who has lived in mainland China, lived in Beijing for the last four, five years, how do you think Beijing is viewing this? Not just the -- the ugly scenes that we've seen at LegCo in the last few hours but -- but also this -- this people power that we are witnessing, people turning out who are -- are -- are fighting against that extradition bill but also fighting for the future and the future freedoms of Hong Kong.
RIVERS: Yes, I mean, this is an expression of democratic freedom. And we know that the communist part in mainland China does not like that. And I think in a lot of ways it's easier for Beijing to write off what's going on at the legislative council or it's easier for them, the government in mainland China look at that and say -- look, look, that's bad, you know, we don't want that, this is what happens when you participate in democracy and it's violence and it's not stable and that's not good for anybody.
You know? And that's what they're probably going to harp on. What they won't harp on is this. This is what the communist party would be more concerned about than anything else. Because these are -- are Chinese people. These are -- are Hong Kong citizens but they are a part of mainland China and they are expressing their viewpoint in a peaceful way, in a way that no one else in mainland China can do. And I think if -- if Beijing looks at what's been going on in -- in Hong Kong over the last couple weeks and sees a threat, it's not with people who are wearing masks, smashing trolleys against -- against glass windows, its people like this, thousands and thousands of people who, you know, took time out of their day to come down here and -- and talk about what they want for the future of their city.
COREN: Yes, it's interesting, Matt, isn't it? Like, even though Hong Kong is part of China under the one country, two systems that -- that came into place 22 years ago after the -- the handover of Hong Kong from Britain to mainland China. People here, certainly people that I speak to, they identify as being Hong Kongers. They do not identify as being Chinese, and that is what these people are fighting for, to keep their -- their independence, to -- to keep their -- their autonomy. Stay with CNN. Much more coming up after the break.