Shops in Hong Kong close doors to ‘find breath of freedom’

In this June 11, 2019, photo, restaurant owner Kelvin Chung, 30 years old, right, attends the protest against an extradition law in Hong Kong. Chung closed his restaurant as protests swept over his Hong Kong neighborhood over planned changes in extradition laws have had an immediate impact on some businesses in the territory. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

HONG KONG (AP) — By the entrance of his restaurant, Kelvin Chung hung a piece of paper announcing the restaurant’s intention to strike on Wednesday.

“Hoping to find a breath of freedom,” the sign said, adding that the shop would offer free honey green tea at lunch time to boost the city’s morale.

His modest Japanese-style grill joined other small businesses that closed their doors to show solidarity with thousands of protesters who blocked government buildings in central Hong Kong, forcing the Legislative Council to postpone debate on highly contentious changes to the territory’s extradition’s laws.

Chung said the legislation is unlikely to have an impact on his restaurant, Delicorner, which offers fried chicken and grilled eel paired with tea. But the 30-year-old said he felt obliged to strike because he cared about the future of Hong Kong.

“The kind of democracy that we long for should be fearless,” Chung said.

The proposed amendments would allow people in Hong Kong to be sent to mainland China to face trial.

Opponents say that would subject people to the mainland’s murky judicial system, which has been accused of bringing vague charges against critics of Communist Party rule and holding unfair trials. Many in Hong Kong worry that the changes would erode the semi-autonomous region’s rule of law and legal independence.

Chung said his goal is to become a psychological counselor, and he is worried that the extradition bill would prevent him from speaking freely to his clients.

“Maybe the law originally had a good objective,” he said, “but the main worry is that mainland China’s legal system is not trustworthy.”

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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