Mass protests hit Hong Kong last Sunday as fury erupted over a proposed law that could allow China to target activists and political opponents.
Organisers said that a million people marched—making it the biggest demonstration in over 20 years. And more protests were planned for Wednesday.
Demonstrators are resisting a law that would give Chinese authorities the right to demand the extradition of suspected criminals to mainland China for trial.
Protesters say the new law will give the Chinese state more power over Hong Kong. Lawyers and barristers have joined the demonstrations, as well as workers, students and pensioners.
An office secretary said she was marching because “many people were ‘disappeared’ in China” while university student Karen Chan said the bill was “nonsense”.
Some protesters tried to break into the legislative council government complex during the mass protest last Sunday. Police attacked them.
The Chinese state has thrown its backing behind the bill. Chinese state media has blamed “foreign forces” for “trying to create havoc” in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong leader, chief executive Carrie Lam, insisted that the bill had not been “initiated” by the Chinese government.
Hong Kong’s government wants to pass the legislation by next month. It claims the bill will make people safer. “Nobody wants Hong Kong to be a fugitive offenders’ haven,” said Lam.
Protesters chanted, “Scrap the evil law,” “Oppose China extradition,” and, “Carrie Lam resign,” during Sunday’s protest.
The huge numbers meant it had to move off early and police were forced to open up side roads.
Hong Kong was a British colony until 1997, when sovereignty was returned to China. It now has an independent legal system, rights including freedom of speech and assembly, its own economic system and the Hong Kong dollar.
But China controls foreign and defence policy. And the chief executive is appointed by the State Council, which is led by the Chinese prime minister.
China’s government had promised direct elections for the chief executive by 2017.
But it reneged on this in 2014, saying voters could only choose from a short list of candidates approved by a pro-China committee.
This led to mass protests and occupations known as the “Umbrella Movement” in late 2014.
Up to 2.3 million people joined demonstrations, while an occupation in Hong Kong’s central district lasted for 79 days.
Activists involved are still being hounded. In April nine activists were jailed for up to 16 months after being convicted on “public nuisance” charges for their role in the protests.
Judge Johnny Chan said the “unreasonableness” of the obstruction “was such that the significant and protected right to demonstrate should be displaced”.
But the reaction to the extradition law shows that the potential for resistance in Hong Kong remains.