World

Hundreds of thousands of people in HK protest against extradition Bill

Thousands oppose Bill that will allow suspects to be sent to China

HONG KONG: Several hundred thousand people jammed Hong Kong's streets yesterday in the biggest rally for years to thwart a proposed extradition law that would allow suspects to be sent to China to face trial.

Organisers said their initial estimates put the turnout at well over half a million people, saying it outstripped a demonstration in 2003 when 500,000 hit the streets to challenge government plans for tighter national security laws.

Those laws were later shelved and a key government official forced to resign.

Yesterday's outpouring was expected to raise the pressure on the administration of Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam and her official backers in Beijing.

GROWING CONCERN

She had yet to comment on the rally, which followed weeks of domestic discontent, leading to growing concern from the US, European Union and foreign business lobbies that the changes would dent Hong Kong's vaunted rule of law and freedoms.

The former British colony was handed back to Chinese rule in 1997 amid guarantees of autonomy and freedoms including a separate legal system.

The unusually broad opposition to the Bill displayed yesterday came amid government moves to deepen links between China and Hong Kong.

Police had yet to issue their own estimate of the protest size. But as tens of thousands reached the Legislative Council in the Admiralty business district, the starting point in Victoria Park was crowded with thousands more still waiting to join the march.

Reuters witnesses at various key points estimated the crowd at several hundred thousand strong.

Chants of "No China extradition, no evil law" echoed through the streets, while others called for senior officials to step down.

One protester held a sign reading "Carry off Carrie", while another declared "Extradite yourself, Carrie".

The crowd included families pushing babies in prams as well as the elderly braving the 32 deg C heat.

Debates will start in Hong Kong's Legislative Council on Wednesday on the amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance. - REUTERS

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