As It Happens

Hong Kong activist goes on hunger strike in the midst of protest crackdown

'It's not transparent. It's not just,' says Minnie Li of the legal system in mainland China, where she grew up. Li and a handful of hunger strikers are speaking out against the proposed new law.

Minnie Li was 24 hours into a 103-hour hunger strike when she spoke to CBC Radio on Wednesday

Minnie Li, fourth from the left, participates in a hunger strike in Hong Kong against the new extradition law. (Gender and Sexual Justice in Action/Facebook)


Tens of thousands of people gathered in the streets of Hong Kong on Wednesday in an ongoing protest against a proposed new extradition agreement with China, including a group of hunger strikers.

Lawmakers were set to debate the bill, but postponed in the face of the latest demonstration and police crackdown that saw rubber bullets, water cannons and tear gas deployed. At least 72 people were injured. Two are in intensive care. 

Amid the crowds, a small group of protesters has launched a hunger strike to make their point. One of them, Minnie Li, spoke to As It Happens host Carol Off. Here is part of their conversation.

Minnie, I know that this hunger strike you're on has been 24 hours by the time that we're speaking. How are you holding up?

We're doing fine. Twenty-four hours, it's not that long. So we are doing good. And maybe tomorrow we will begin to feel weaker. So tomorrow there will be a doctor here to monitor our condition.

How many people are with you on the bridge doing this hunger strike?

At this moment around 10.


And how long do you think you will continue?

We aim at 103 hours. Because last Sunday there were more than one million people out there to protest. The number was 1-0-3: 1,030,000.

There has been tear gas. There have been batons. Police are going after the protesters. What has happened where you are now?

We are on a bridge, so they kind of block the bridge. They want to clear all the protesters on the bridge. So we were sitting on the ground and in two lines. And in front of us, there were like 30 of them standing and fully armed.

We were trying to stop them or at least serve as a barrier there so that they have to be worried about us before hitting or beating the other protesters. But later we heard many numbers of tear gas under the bridge. They shot tear gas many times, I just lost the count. At least two of the tear gas went on to the bridge. So we just, we got smoke.

The police are saying that it is a riot, and that they are responding to a riot, which is a very serious charge. What have you seen as far as protesters throwing bricks or bottles or umbrellas at police?

To me it was far from a riot. It's just some peaceful protest.

There were thousands of people gathering under the bridge. But they were not trying to attack anyone.

I don't see any violence from the protesters.

[Hong Kong Chief Executive] Carrie Lam, her response to the demonstrations, she said that it was like spoiled children. What do you say to Carrie Lam?

I was angry at what she said. So if the protesters, the young people, if they are spoiled children, then who are the parents? Is she implying that the government is the parent?

So the government should be responsible for what has happened here. And it's because the government is spoiled. The government is not responding to our protests, to any voice from this society. So they just want to push hard to pass this bill. 

Li was 24 hours into a 103-hour hunger strike when she spoke to As It Happens on Wednesday. (Minnie Li/Facebook)

And what is your greatest fear for yourself if that law should be passed?

I was born in mainland China and I lived there for 23 years. After 23 years, I moved to Hong Kong. So I have known too well about how the law system is in mainland China. It's not transparent. It's not just.

So I don't believe that people who are being extradited to China would have a fair trial.

They said that the High Court of Hong Kong would have the power to prevent any error here, or to kind of secure the human rights of the so-called criminals, of the persecuted. But actually the high court here doesn't have that power. 

After the passing of this bill, all the power, actually the biggest power of approval, then lies in the chief executive. So Carrie Lam has the power to secure the human rights of Hong Kong people.

But she's not elected by Hong Kong people. She was assigned from above by the Beijing government. So we cannot hold her accountable for what she has done. So obviously we cannot trust her choice, and we cannot guarantee that everyone who would be extradited to China will have a fair trial.

A protester holds an umbrella during a demonstration against a proposed extradition bill in Hong Kong on Wednesday. (Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters)

This is all happening so close to the days of Tienanmen Square, 30 years ago. Are people thinking about that and maybe even worrying about that?

Yes. Even during Umbrella Movement people worried about that. People just pray that June Fourth would not repeat in Hong Kong.

According to my observations, the policemen, they've responded so fiercely. They have a lot of emotion. And I don't know why.

They were beating any people they meet. Especially during when they're clearing the whole place. They just beat anyone passing by and they don't hesitate to harm people, from the videos I have seen.

Written by Sarah-Joyce Battersby. Interview produced for radio by Allie Jaynes. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.


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