The leader of Hong Kong has pledged to move forward with legislation that will ease extraditions to China despite a massive protest from hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of citizens over the weekend. The legislation is backed by Beijing, according to Bloomberg, and would allow Hong Kong to enter into one-time agreements with places like China and Taiwan to move criminal suspects.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam said that the government “could see people are still concerned about the bill.” Generally, a million people taking to the streets in protest can make that point clear.
Lam has said that the legislation has been amended to protect human rights and called on Hong Kong’s elected Legislative Council to make further changes.
“The society has been closely and intensely discussing the amendment bill for four months. It should be returned to the Legislative Council, which should carry out its constitutional duty. This means after vetting the bill, legislators can amend or approve the bill or whatever. Our stand is still our stand today.”
“There is very little merit to be gained by delaying the bill,” Lam concluded.
Hong Kong arrested 7 people who were parties to the protest on charges of "suspicion of attacking the police". Lee Kwai-wah, senior superintendent of the city’s Organized Crime and Triad Bureau, said another 12 people were arrested for blocking roads.
Jimmy Sham of the Civil Human Rights Front, the organizer of Sunday’s protest, pushed back on Lam's comments: “Carrie Lam is provoking us. I don’t understand why a government doesn’t want us to live a comfortable life but to challenge us to see what price we can pay.”
Sham's group plans on holding another protest outside of the legislature on Wednesday during the second of three required readings of the bill.
Opposition lawmaker Claudia Mo said: “We don’t need any more written or verbal safeguards. We want the bill to be scrapped all together.”
China, meanwhile, has said it "firmly" supports Hong Kong's stance on the bill.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters in Beijing that China “opposes external intervention in Hong Kong’s internal legislation.”
Yesterday we noted that over 1 million people had marched in protest against the bill.
According to the SCMP, it was the most unified protest march in the city in more than a decade, with some calling it the ultimate showdown over the bill, which goes to a vote on June 12.
If turnout numbers are accurate, it would represent the biggest protest since 2003, when 500,000 people demonstrated against national security legislation that was later withdrawn by the government. The sea of marchers set off from Victoria Park just before 3pm and streets in nearby Causeway Bay were soon brought to a standstill as protesters clad in white chanted and sang songs as they walked in the oppressive heat, according to the SCMP.
Tensions escalated in recent weeks as Hongkongers from all walks of life have spoken out against the proposal. Petitions against the bill have circulated, thousands of lawyers staged a silent march and several chambers of commerce have voiced concerns. The bill's proponents, mostly the city's administration, see it as vital tool to fight transnational crime and maintain the rule of law.
“This is the last fight for Hong Kong,” the WSJ quoted Martin Lee, a veteran opposition leader who founded the city’s Democratic Party. "The proposal is the most dangerous threat to our freedoms and way of life since the handover" of sovereignty, he said.
While the protests were mostly peaceful, there were occasional reports of scuffles between protesters and police, seven arrests and a fire in Central - but no major violence. Police gave the protesters a midnight deadline to disperse from government headquarters.
“I needed to let my voice be heard,” said Kitty Wong, a 38-year-old teacher who joined a protest for the first time. Gesturing to her two children, ages 8 and 9, she said: “We need to defend our home for the next generation.”