Hong Kong vows to press ahead with extradition bill despite huge protest
10 June, 2019, 4:19 pm
HONG KONG (Reuters) – Riot police surrounded Hong Kong’s parliament on Monday after authorities said they would go ahead with a proposed extradition law, which would allow suspects to be sent to mainland China, despite protests from an estimated crowd of more than a million.
What began as a peaceful protest through the center of the global financial hub descended into violence early on Monday as several hundred protesters clashed with police, who responded with pepper spray before the standoff ended soon after.
The protests plunged Hong Kong into a new political crisis, heaping pressure on Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s administration and her official backers in Beijing. Veteran lawmakers have called on her to resign.
The rendition bill has generated unusually broad opposition, from normally pro-establishment business people and lawyers to students, pro-democracy figures and religious groups.
Sunday’s demonstration capped weeks of growing outrage in the business, diplomatic and legal communities, which fear corrosion of Hong Kong’s legal autonomy and the difficulty of ensuring basic judicial protections in mainland China.
Lam sought to soothe public concerns and said her administration was creating additional amendments to the bill, including safeguarding human rights.
“This bill is not about the mainland alone. This bill is not initiated by the central people’s government. I have not received any instruction or mandate from Beijing to do this bill,” she told reporters on Monday.
She said the bill would have a second reading debate on Wednesday.
Hong Kong newspaper Mingpao said in an editorial the government should take the protesters seriously and that pushing the legislation forward would exacerbate tensions.
The official China Daily newspaper said in an editorial on Monday “foreign forces” were trying to hurt China by creating chaos in Hong Kong.
“Any fair-minded person would deem the amendment bill a legitimate, sensible and reasonable piece of legislation that would strengthen Hong Kong’s rule of law and deliver justice,” the mainland paper said.
Amnesty International said the amended extradition law was a threat to human rights.
“If enacted, this law would extend the ability of the mainland authorities to target critics, human rights activists, journalists, NGO workers and anyone else in Hong Kong, much in the same way they do at home,” it said in a statement.