Tens of Thousands Protest New Extradition Rules in HK

Tens of thousands of people protested in Hong Kong today over proposed changes to rules, in the largest public demonstration since 2014’s Occupy Central/Umbrella Movement. Police estimated that 22,800 attended while organizers gave an estimate of 130,000. The proposed rules would allow Hong Kong to extradite people to be tried in China and other places that it does not have rendition agreements with. The Hong Kong Bar Association, human rights organizations, and others have raised concerns over this proposal given China’s lack of legal protections and fears of the erosion of Hong Kong’s judicial independence from China. AFP reports on the protests:

The extradition proposal has already sparked large protests and mounting alarm within the city’s business and legal communities who fear it will hammer the financial hub’s international appeal and tangle people up in China’s opaque courts.

But Sunday’s protest was one of the biggest in the city in recent years.

The demonstration comes just days after four prominent leaders of Hong Kong’s democracy movement were jailed for their role in organising mass pro-democracy protests in 2014 that brought parts of the city to a standstill for months.

Demonstrators on Sunday chanted “Step down, Carrie Lam!” — referring to the city’s pro-Beijing leader, while many held the yellow umbrellas that symbolised the 2014 rallies. [Source]

Jessie Pang and Greg Torode report for Reuters on protesters’ concerns:

Veteran activist and former legislator Leung Kwok-hung said the government’s move risked removing Hong Kongers’ “freedom from fear”.

“Hong Kong people and visitors passing by Hong Kong will lose their right not to be extradited into mainland China,” he said. “They would need to face an unjust legal system on the mainland.”

Some younger marchers said they were worried about traveling to the mainland after the move, which comes just as the government encourages young people to deepen ties with the mainland and promotes Hong Kong’s links with southern China.

Law clerk Edward Wen, 45, said the difference in human rights standards between Hong Kong and the mainland was too great to bridge.

“You will be screwed as long as they put up a crime on your behalf,” he said. [Source]

Al Jazeera looks at the proposed rule changes:

Under the changes, the Hong Kong leader 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.

As a safeguard, such orders – to be issued case-by-case – can be challenged and appealed through the city’s independent legal system. Government officials have said no one at risk of the death penalty or torture or facing a political charge can be sent from Hong Kong.

The proposals could be passed into law later in the year, with the city’s pro-democratic camp no longer holding enough seats to block the move. [Source]

In recent years, Chinese authorities have removed individuals from Hong Kong for investigation in China or have detained Hong Kong residents while they are in the mainland. In 2015, five Hong Kong booksellers and publishers associated with Causeway Bay Bookstore were detained in China. One, Gui Minhai, remains in Chinese detention. One of the booksellers, Lam Wing-kee, recently moved to Taiwan out of fear of being extradited from Hong Kong once the new rules take effect.

Last week, nine organizers of 2014’s Umbrella Movement protests were convicted–and eight sentenced–on “public nuisance charges,” with two professors, Chan Kin-man and Benny Tai, sentenced to 16 months in prison.