Massive crowds took to the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday to protest a new Chinese extradition law. It was the largest demonstration the city has seen since its reunification with China in 1997.
Over a million people hit the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday to protest a proposed Chinese extradition law. That figure – an estimate of organizers – represents about one-seventh of the city’s population of 7.5 million.
The protsts began in the afternoon with a 3km march to Hong Kong’s Legislative Council building. The crowd didn’t disperse until the early hours of Monday morning.
At stake was a bill that would allow authorities to extradite suspects from Hong Kong to China. Hong Kong officials say they would have final say over who gets extradited.
Critics say the law opens the door for Chinese authorities to poach political and business adversaries. They say that it would essentially cancel Hong Kong’s semi-autonomous status. Also, the law would not only apply to Hong Kong residents. Anyone who passes through Hong Kong would be subject to extradition to China, without the guarantee of a fair trial.
Protesters say the law is not in the interest of the city’s people. They say that local leaders are merely following the wishes of Beijing.
"Hong Kong government and the Chinese government are not on an equal footing. So if the Chinese government makes a promise to Hong Kong and says 'oh we would not extradite political dissidents, we would ensure fair trial,' and if the Hong Kong government extradites its people, its citizens back to China and China breaches its promise, there's nothing the Hong Kong government can do. So there's no way that Hong Kong citizens should trust Chinese government and the Hong Kong government," said Chan Sze-chai, one of the protestors.
It’s not just Hong Kong residents that are worried. Members of the expat business community are also concerned about the extradition law.
"We obviously remember all the things happening in Beijing with the two Canadians that were sort of picked up, in response to the CFO of Huawei being arrested. People like myself, expats, are really, really cautious about this type of thing, thinking that China could actually come and impose those types of tit-for-tat kind of arrests without warrant really, so people are really, really worried about that," said Shaun Martin, another protestor.
Later on Sunday night, the protest turned violent, with police in riot gear brandishing batons, and using pepper spray to break up the crowd. According to the Hong Kong police, three officers were injured during the conflicts. At least seven people were arrested during the demonstration.
Despite the massive protest on Sunday, Hong Kong’s Legislative Council will vote on the bill on Wednesday. The bill is expected to pass, since pro-Beijing council members are in the majority.