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In Hong Kong, Pro-Democracy Legislator Reacts To Latest

Jul 9, 2019
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

How much did Hong Kong's chief executive really concede to protesters? Carrie Lam made what sounded like a definitive statement today. She said an extradition bill is not just suspended but dead. Millions of Hong Kong residents had protested that measure. They said it would take residents out of their open judicial system and into mainland China's very different one. So the death of that bill seems a victory for demonstrators. But how do they see it?

We've called Charles Mok, a pro-democracy legislator who's been on the program before.

Welcome back, sir.

CHARLES MOK: Thank you.

INSKEEP: Is this statement by the chief executive what you needed to hear?

MOK: Well, I think it's far from what we expected or what we wanted to hear because, basically, she's just restating that the bill is dead and so on. But I think the word that the protesters and the mass public in Hong Kong would really like to hear is that the bill is completely withdrawn. And unfortunately, for whatever reason, she is unwilling to say that particular word, maybe to save face. But I think if this is a tug of war between a total withdrawal (inaudible) and her saving face, I think the public, after so long and so much demonstration of our determination, it is really much less than what we expected.

INSKEEP: Does that mean that you will continue the protests?

MOK: Well, in fact, over the weekend - over the past weekend, we've had two large-scale protests that actually were quite different from any of the other ones that we've had over the last period of the recent time and as well as in the past, totally, because they were held in very different areas of Hong Kong.

Rather than surrounding the government headquarters and so on, the protesters have decided to distribute their efforts into different parts of the community. And I think this will continue over the summer, and it will cause a major headache to the government and, in fact, bringing the whole concept - or the whole actions into different parts of Hong Kong. And this will continue, I believe, over the summer.

INSKEEP: Although let me ask about the nature of power in Hong Kong. You have mounted these demonstrations. You have won what sound like concessions from Carrie Lam. But it sounds like you're...

MOK: Yes.

INSKEEP: ...Far from satisfied. And we should remind people that, although the system is complex and Hong Kongers have some voice, she is ultimately answerable to Beijing, not to people in the streets.

MOK: Yes.

INSKEEP: Have you found a formula...

MOK: Yes.

INSKEEP: ...That makes the chief executive in some way answerable to the people?

MOK: Well, I think actually, first of all, we did score, you know, a partial victory by holding off this particular controversial bill. But ever since that serious protest has gone on and there were accusations of police violence, I think the man-on-the-street people in Hong Kong are really looking for thorough investigation into the police - independent investigation into the police action and the alleged violence. Beyond that, actually, I think the whole episode triggered the desire of Hong Kong people over the last more than 20 years of fighting for true democracy in Hong Kong so that we can elect our own chief executive with universal suffrage; so that we can elect our whole legislature in an equal - a legally represented way so that we will have, also, universal suffrage for our legislation.

INSKEEP: Twenty years, you mentioned...

MOK: So these are the things that we are...

INSKEEP: ...That's, of course, more than 20 years since Britain withdrew from Hong Kong. Do you expect 20 more years of...

MOK: Yes, yes.

INSKEEP: ...Protests? Will it take that long?

MOK: (Laughter) Well, I think the young people are basically saying that they've waited long enough and they don't want to wait another 20 years. So they essentially have stepped up the action and take matters into their own hands.

INSKEEP: Mr. Mok, it's always a pleasure talking with you. Thank you so much.

MOK: Thank you.

INSKEEP: Charles Mok is a legislative councilor in Hong Kong. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.