World

Hong Kong gears up for more protests

Protesters have called for strikes, slow public transport and demonstrations

HONG KONG: Hong Kong is braced for strikes, transport go-slows and another mass demonstration today in protest against a proposed extradition law that would allow people to be sent to China for trial.

Embattled chief executive Carrie Lam said she would push ahead with the Bill despite deep concerns across vast swaths of Hong Kong that triggered its biggest political demonstration in more than 15 years on Sunday.

In a rare move, prominent business leaders warned that pushing through the extradition law could undermine investor confidence in Hong Kong.

The extradition Bill, which has generated unusually broad opposition at home and abroad, is due for a second round of debate today in the city's 70-seat Legislative Council.

The legislature is controlled by a pro-Beijing majority.

An online petitioncalled for 50,000 people to surround the legislature building at 10pm last night and remain until today.

Sunday's protests plunged Hong Kong into political crisis, heaping pressure on Ms 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.

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 whole week".

Nearly 2,000 mostly small retail shops, including restaurants and grocery, book and coffee shops, have announced plans to strike, according to an online survey.

The student union of several higher education institutions and the Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union urged people to strike today.

Human rights groups have repeatedly cited the alleged use of torture, arbitrary detention, forced confession and problems accessing a lawyer 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.

The Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong called on the government not to pass the Bill "hurriedly" and urged all Christians to pray for the former colony.

A staff union affiliated to a pro-democracy labour group under the New World First Bus Company called on its members to drive at the speed of 20 to 25 kmh to show their opposition to the proposed law.

PICNIC

A Facebook post called on people to enjoy a picnic next to government offices today, 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 Chinese clients were shifting their accounts to Singapore, fearing they could come under scrutiny in Hong Kong.

China's Foreign Ministry said yesterday 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 that it was gravely concerned and warned that such a move could jeopardise the special status Washington affords Hong Kong. - REUTERS

WORLD