HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong’s leaders launched laws on Wednesday to change extradition rules to allow people to be sent to mainland China for trial, standing fast against growing opposition to a move that many fear could further erode the city’s legal protections.
Thousands took to Hong Kong streets to protest the laws at the weekend, joining an unusually broad chorus of concern from international business elites to rights’ groups and even some pro-establishment figures.
But Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam said her government would make no further amendments before introducing the laws to the city’s parliament.
Small groups of protestors supporting the government’s bill briefly faced off against opponents outside the Legislative Council but later dispersed without incident. Opponents of the changes fear further erosion of freedoms and legal protections in the free-wheeling financial hub – rights which were guaranteed under the city’s handover from British colonial rule to Chinese sovereignty in 1997.
According to the laws presented to the Council on Wednesday, the Chief Executive would have the right to order the extradition of wanted offenders to China, Macau and Taiwan as well as other countries not covered by Hong Kong’s existing extradition treaties.
Reporting By Greg Torode and Jessie Pang; additional reporting by Clare Jim; Editing by Michael Perry