Hong Kong braces for mass protests
against bill allowing extraditions to China
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[June 11, 2019]
By Jessie Pang and Clare Jim
HONG KONG (Reuters) - Hong Kong braced for
strikes, transport go-slows and another mass demonstration in protest
against a proposed extradition law that would allow people to be sent to
China for trial, as the Chinese-ruled city's leader vowed defiance.
Embattled leader Carrie Lam said she would push ahead with the bill
despite deep concerns across vast swaths of the Asian financial hub that
triggered its biggest political demonstration in more than 15 years on
In a rare move, prominent business leaders warned that pushing through
the extradition law could undermine investor confidence in Hong Kong and
erode its competitive advantages.
The extradition bill, which has generated unusually broad opposition at
home and abroad, is due for a second round of debate on Wednesday in the
city's 70-seat Legislative Council. The legislature is controlled by a
An online petition has called for 50,000 people to surround the
legislature building at 10 p.m. (1400 GMT) on Tuesday and remain until
Britain handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997 under a "one-country,
two-systems" formula, with guarantees that its autonomy and freedoms,
including an independent justice system, would be protected.
But many accuse China of extensive meddling, denying democratic reforms,
interfering with local elections and the disappearance of five Hong
Kong-based booksellers, starting in 2015, who specialized in works
critical of Chinese leaders.
Sunday's protests plunged Hong Kong into political crisis, just as
months of pro-democracy "Occupy" demonstrations did in 2014, heaping
pressure on Lam's administration and her official backers in Beijing.
She warned against any "radical actions", following clashes in the early
hours of Monday between some protesters and police after Sunday's
otherwise peaceful march.
Police erected metal barriers to secure the council building as a small
number of protesters started to gather on Tuesday evening despite
torrential rain and thunderstorm warnings.
Pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo urged people to join the rally and
encouraged businesses to strike "for a day, or two, or probably for one
Nearly 2,000 mostly small retail shops, including restaurants, grocery,
book and coffee shops, have announced plans to strike, according to an
online survey, a rare move in the staunchly capitalist economy.
The student union of several higher education institutions and the Hong
Kong Professional Teachers' Union urged people to strike on Wednesday.
Nearly 4,000 teachers said they would rally.
Human rights groups have repeatedly cited the alleged use of torture,
arbitrary detentions, forced confessions and problems accessing lawyers
in China, where the courts are controlled by the Communist Party, as
reasons why the Hong Kong bill should not proceed.
"We just want to protect our homeland. Is this wrong?...I urge all Hong
Kong people and students to go on strike tomorrow to tell them we will
not accept this evil law," one student said.
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Pro-democracy legislator Claudia Mo speaks during a protest outside
the Legislative Council building in Hong Kong, China June 11, 2019.
The Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong called on the government not to
pass the bill "hurriedly" and urged all Christians to pray for the
A staff union affiliated to a pro-democracy labor group under the
New World First Bus Company called on its members to drive at the
speed of 20-25 kmh (12-15 mph) to show their opposition to the
A Facebook post called on people to enjoy a picnic next to
government offices on Wednesday, describing the area as "among the
best picnic sites". The post has attracted close to 10,000 responses
from people promising to attend.
Beijing-based consultancy Gavecal said some bankers in Hong Kong
were reporting that many mainland clients were shifting their
accounts to Singapore, fearing they could come under scrutiny in the
"MISSTEPS COULD BE COSTLY"
China's foreign ministry said on Tuesday that Hong Kong matters are
purely a Chinese internal affair and China demands the United States
stops interfering in Hong Kong's affairs.
The comments came after Washington said on Monday it was gravely
concerned about the proposed law and warned that such a move could
jeopardize the special status Washington affords Hong Kong.
A 1992 U.S. law recognizes Hong Kong's special status and allows the
United States to engage with it as a non-sovereign entity distinct
from China in matters of trade and economics. Areas of special
treatment include visas, law enforcement, including extraditions,
Prominent business figures urged the government to tread cautiously
to protect Hong Kong's competitiveness.
"The integrity and independence of (Hong Kong's) legal system are
absolutely central to Hong Kong's future," said Fred Hu, founder and
chairman of China-based private equity firm, Primavera Capital
Activist investor David Webb, in a post on Lam's Facebook page,
urged her to send the bill to the Law Reform Commission for further
"If you press ahead and bulldoze the bill through LegCo, then you
will probably get the legislation passed, but at huge political cost
and damage to the international credibility of HK for due process
when reforming its legislation," Webb said.
(Additional reporting by Kane Wu, Anne Marie Roantree, Felix Tam;
Writing by Anne Marie Roantree; Editing by Paul Tait and Nick Macfie)
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