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Pro-Beijing Hong Kong legislator on why protesters’ ‘voices have not been heard’

A day after protesters broke into government buildings in Hong Kong and trashed the legislative chamber, the Chinese government condemned their actions. But many people in Hong Kong feel frustrated with a lack of progress toward democratic reform, more than 20 years after the UK's handover to China. Nick Schifrin talks to Michael Tien, a Hong Kong legislative councilor, about should happen next.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Today, the Chinese government strongly condemned the protesters who broke into the seat of government in Hong Kong last night and trashed the legislative chamber.

    Yesterday, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators marched peacefully on the 22nd anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong from the United Kingdom to the People's Republic of China. Their main objection, a bill that would allow for suspected criminals to be extradited to mainland China.

    A separate, more aggressive group smashed windows of the legislative council, known as LegCo, and briefly occupied it.

    Last night, our foreign affairs correspondent, Nick Schifrin, reported from inside the building and interviewed one of the occupiers.

    Today, the support of the Pulitzer Center, Nick spoke with a legislative councillor who was a member of two political parties considered pro-Beijing.

    Michael Tien began by striking a conciliatory tone towards protesters who just last night ransacked his office.

  • Michael Tien:

    They are very frustrated because they feel that their voices have not been heard, and they feel that government has failed them and that LegCo, whom voters put into office, as a whole have not been listening to them or addressing their concern.

    I think the massive turnout is a reflection about, do we still have a high degree of autonomy that was promised us, or has it been eroding?

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Well, you seem to say that you understand their frustration, their anger, their anxiety about their futures.

    Why is that?

  • Michael Tien:

    All the vandalism, all the graffiti, anyway — anything, it's not meant do any permanent damage. It's simply to show their frustration because of the fact that, 22 years down the road, we still have not moved forward with any kind of political reform, all right?

    Universal suffrage, choosing our chief executive, has gone sour a couple years ago. LegCo, reform about making it more democratic, more accountable to the people, has not really materialized.

    So the extradition bill and the high-handed way the government has handled the extradition bill, with the central government coming out in full support of the bill, all right, I think further adds to this frustration.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    So, let's talk about how the government should respond. Should Carrie Lam step down?

  • Michael Tien:

    It's not up to her.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Who's it up to?

  • Michael Tien:

    It's the Central People's Government.

    And under the China system, you don't just quit like that. Is it totally Carrie Lam's fault? I don't think so. No one person can do so much damage.

    It is the structure that put her into this position. So, on one hand, she is supposed to explain to Hong Kong people about certain national policies. She also has to reflect Hong Kong people's concern to the central government.

    The question is, in this — in striking this balance, has she been absolutely attentive to both sides? And I feel it's not just about Carrie Lam. It's basically the structure itself is an issue.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    So, today, what should happen to the extradition bill?

  • Michael Tien:

    I still support the fact that Hong Kong cannot be a haven for criminals forever.

    I still think, eventually, we have to deal with this issue. But the current bill open up more problems than provide solutions.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    So, why not give in to the demand of protesters and withdraw the bill?

  • Michael Tien:

    That's the million-dollar question.

    I have a suspicion that is — that was central government's sort of line. All right? They have come out and pledged open support for this bill. Retracting means even the premise is not there, the direction is wrong. Suspending it indefinitely and pledging to bring it back with something that can be popularly supported, I believe, is the right way.

    Of all the demands made by the protesters, I support one of them, which is to have an independent judge-led committee looking into the June 12 riot, finding out what happened with the police, what happened with the rioters, OK, who has done what, whether any prosecution needs to be resulted, and also laying down guidelines for future use of police force.

    We need to do two things. One is to make people feel that they have a say in their choice of government, secondly, to not let people lose faith in our police force.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Sir, thank you very much for your time.

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