Hong Kong’s leader signaled Monday that her government would push ahead with amendments to extradition laws. A day earlier, hundreds of thousands of people gathered in protest of the proposed measure. It was the city’s largest protest in more than 10 years.
The bill would mean people charged with crimes could be sent from Hong Kong to mainland China to face punishment.
China has a much different legal system than Hong Kong. The possibility of extradition has worried many in Hong Kong -- from international business groups to legal experts to pro-democracy parties.
Residents have long fought against efforts by China to increase control.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam described the legislation as important. She told reporters that it would help Hong Kong uphold justice and meet international requirements. Lam also said she had not received any orders from mainland China to push the bill forward. “We were doing it -- and we are still doing it -- out of our...commitment to Hong Kong.”
Lam said the bill seeks to prevent Hong Kong from becoming a place for criminals to hide. She said that it is not centered on mainland China. Western democracies, she said, have accused Hong Kong of failing to deal with issues such as money laundering and terrorist financing.
Hong Kong was guaranteed the right to have its own social, legal and political systems for 50 years under an agreement reached before its 1997 return to China from British rule. Some experts and activists believe that China’s ruling Communist Party is increasingly acting against that agreement through changes to Hong Kong law.
Organizers of Sunday’s protest estimated the size of the crowd at more than a million. Police estimated about 240,000 people were in attendance during the busiest time of the march.
People of all ages took part. Many shouted to call for greater openness and government. Some carried signs calling for Lam’s resignation.
A committee of mostly pro-mainland China members elected Lam as the city’s leader in 2017. Critics have accused her of ignoring widespread opposition to the extradition law amendments.
Agnes Chow, a well-known Hong Kong activist who opposes the bill, said Lam “ignored the anger of more than a million Hong Kong citizens.”
“Not only me, but I believe most Hong Kong people — have felt really angry with Carrie Lam’s response to our rally,” Chow told reporters in Tokyo, where she arrived Monday to appeal to Japanese media and politicians.
The demonstrations in Hong Kong are not over. Protesters plan to sleep outside the Legislative Council building on Tuesday night. They will gather on Wednesday before the bill’s second reading. Over a hundred businesses plan to close that day to let their employees attend.
I’m Ashley Thompson.
Ashley Thompson adapted this report based on articles by VOA News and the Associated Press. Caty Weaver was the editor.
Words in This Story
extradition - n. the act of sending a person who has been accused a crime to another state or country for trial
commitment - n. a promise to do or give something
laundering - n. the process of putting money that you got by doing something illegal into a business or bank account in order to hide where it really came from
response - n. something that is said or written as a reply to something
rally - n. a public meeting to support or oppose someone or something