Hong Kong extradition bill: Protesters vow to push ahead

Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam

Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam

Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in Hong Kong as campaigners look to keep the pressure on the government, despite a move by the city's embattled leader to suspend a controversial extradition bill.

The goal for the amendment, according to Lam, is to safeguard Hong Kong's peace and stability, and ensure that Hong Kong is not a place for criminals to evade legal responsibilities.

Pro-democracy activists were calling for a general strike on Monday despite Lam's decision to suspend work on the legislation.

"Call it the Carrie trade".

Suspending the bill has done little to defuse simmering public anger.

Organizers of the protest said they hope more than a million people will turn up for the rally, similar to numbers they estimated for a demonstration against the proposed extradition bill last Sunday. Police said 338,000 were counted on the designated protest route in the "peak period" of the march.

The global finance hub was on Wednesday rocked by the worst political violence since its 1997 handover to China as tens of thousands of protesters were dispersed by riot police firing tear gas and rubber bullets.

"After repeated internal deliberations over the last two days I now announce that the government has chose to suspend the legislative amendment exercise", Lam said at a press conference, adding that the central government in Beijing supported the decision to take "more time for discussion".

While the bill would allow for Hong Kong to extradite to a number of jurisdictions on a case by case basis where it does not have a long term agreement, the prospect of China in particular has alarmed a wide cross-section of Hong Kong society.

Many opponents of the extradition legislation are urging Lam to step down and want her to drop the legislation, which many fear would undermine freedoms enjoyed by this former British colony but not elsewhere in China.

For the pro-democracy activists, who have been opposing China's increasing grip over Hong Kong, this is regarded as their first success. However, Lam continued to defend bill and refused to withdraw it. She stays on. We stay on.

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US President Donald Trump will discuss the mass protests in Hong Kong with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping at the upcoming G20 summit, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday.

"Having regard to the strong and different views in society, the government has suspended the legislative amendment exercise at the full Legislative Council with a view to restoring calmness in society as soon as possible and avoiding any injuries to any persons".

Lam's reversal was hailed by business groups and overseas governments.

The SCMP said Ms Lam held an emergency meeting on Friday night with her advisers while Chinese officials were also meeting in the nearby city of Shenzhen to map a way out of the impasse.

The UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said on Twitter: "Well done HK Government for heeding concerns of the fearless citizens who have stood up for their human rights".

"China's determination to safeguard its sovereignty, security and development interests and uphold Hong Kong's prosperity and stability is rock solid", he said.

Some operators of the Hong Kong metro have been sharing encouraging words with protesters over the metro intercom system, reported RTHK, with some saying if they weren't driving the protesters, they would be out joining them.

The unprecedented chaos in Hong Kong came at a sensitive time for China, already on edge over the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre.

Hundreds of thousands of protesters thronged the city's streets this week to oppose it, with police brutality and government intransigence adding to public outrage.

The proposed bill to amend the law was prompted to simplify extradition of a suspect after a Hong Kong citizen was murdered in Taiwan, but Taiwan authorities have strongly opposed the bill.

The bill would enable the chief executive and local courts to handle extradition requests without legislative oversight, although lawyers, journalists, foreign politicians and businesses have raised concerns over the risk of residents being extradited to the mainland, which lacks human rights protections.

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