Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Monday refused to scrap the controversial extradition bill that had on Sunday led to protests said to be the largest ever in the city in three decades. Riot police surrounded Hong Kong’s parliament on Monday morning, Reuters reported.
The bill plans to allow extraditions to any jurisdiction with which Hong Kong does not already have a treaty. Critics fear this would allow Beijing to target dissidents in the former British colony and bring them to mainland China. Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China, and Lam’s government is backed by Beijing.
Lam said her administration was planning amendments to the bill, including to safeguard human rights. She asserted that the bill is “not about the mainland alone”. “This bill is not initiated by the central people’s government,” she said. “I have not received any instruction or mandate from Beijing to do this bill.”
Chief Secretary for Administration Matthew Cheung said the government had improved the proposal. “I hope that in the Legislative Council, everyone can continue the discussion in a frank, peaceful and rational way and continue to follow up on this matter,” Cheung said.
Lam said the legislature would go ahead with its plan to debate the bill on Wednesday. Protestors had demanded that the bill be delayed or withdrawn, AFP reported.
Sunday’s protests saw a million people, according to the organisers. Police, however, estimated the peak figure during the day at 2,40,000. Early on Monday, several hundred protestors clashed with police, who responded with pepper spray.
About 1,000 people joined a protest in Sydney too, while one protest was reported in London, according to Reuters.
Amnesty International has called the bill 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,” the group said.