Hundreds of thousands of protesters clogged the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday in a mass demonstration of public anger over plans to allow the rendition of suspects to mainland China.
Organizers told RFA that more than a million people wearing white and singing protest songs brought traffic to a standstill, in the largest protest in Hong Kong since the former British colony’s 1997 handover to China. Police said 240,000 people joined the protest against the controversial bill.
The protesters are opposing the amendments to the city’s Fugitive Offenders Ordinance, which goes to a vote on June 12 and if passed will allow China to request the rendition of criminal suspects from the Hong Kong authorities in the absence of a formal extradition treaty.
The government’s planned legal amendment-which the ruling Chinese Communist Party wants implemented “urgently”-has sparked widespread fear that the city will lose its status as a separate legal jurisdiction, and that rights activists and dissidents in the city could be targeted by Beijing for actions deemed illegal across the internal border.
Judges, lawyers, opposition politicians, rights activists, business groups, and journalists have all expressed vocal opposition to the plan, which will allow China to request the extradition of an alleged suspect from Hong Kong based on the standards of evidence that currently apply in its own courts.
The most likely jurisdiction to use the proposed provision is mainland China, which currently has no formal extradition treaty with Hong Kong, and Lam has tried to reassure people that legal safeguards will be used to safeguard the rights of suspects.
Lawyers who staged a silent protest on Thursday to raise awareness of Sunday’s rally said the government’s supposed safeguards are meaningless.