Organisers of Sunday’s protest against Hong Kong’s controversial extradition bill are expecting a record turnout, akin to the 500,000 who successfully demonstrated against national security laws in 2003.
The prediction comes as four international journalism and publisher organisations sounded the alarm on the impending bill. They cited a potential threat to freedom of expression while exposing journalists and their sources to China’s opaque legal system under “trumped up charges.”
The International Federation for Journalists, Reporters Without Borders, the Committee to Protect Journalists and the Society of Publishers in Asia issued separate statements urging the Hong Kong government to scrap or modify the bill to include additional safeguards to prevent arbitrary rendition.
Their statements come as 400 current and former Hong Kong journalists made a joint plea to withdraw the bill in a full-page advertisement in local Chinese-language broadsheet Ming Pao. Signatories included HKFP staff.
Hong Kong’s government proposed legal amendments in February to allow the city to handle case-by-case extradition requests from jurisdictions with no prior agreements, most notably China and Taiwan. The plan would enable the chief executive and local courts to handle extradition requests without legislative oversight, though lawyers, journalists, foreign politicians and businesses have raised concerns over the risk of residents being extradited to the mainland. The bill could reach a final vote before the current legislative period ends in July.
The amendments have ignited debate over public trust in the city’s legislature and China’s judicial system.
On Saturday, it was revealed high court judge Patrick Li was among 3,000 Hong Kong University graduates to sign an online petition opposing the extradition amendments. Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma warned Li to avoid participating in such petitions, citing judicial impartiality.
The revelation came after a rare display of political protest by three top judges and 12 leading commercial and criminal lawyers. They anonymously told Reuters last month they were concerned the bill would undermine Hong Kong’s rule of law.
‘Safeguard Hong Kong’
The march on Sunday is organised by the Civil Human Rights Front – a coalition of pan-democrat groups – under the slogans “safeguard Hong Kong,” “scrap the evil law” and “Carrie Lam resign.” Protesters will gather at 2:30pm in Victoria Park and proceed to Admiralty.
Organisers said they hope to replicate a 2003 mass rally that drew an estimated half a million Hongkongers to the streets, sounding the death knell for Article 23 legislation to prohibit treason, secession, sedition, subversion against the central government.
Police are remaining on guard on Sunday after two petrol bomb attacks against their Wan Chai headquarters and Happy Valley station on Friday. A man has been charged in connection with the incident and three others have been released on bail. Police said there was no connection found to the protests.
The rally on Sunday comes following of a series of recent protests over the contentious bill. On Thursday, thousands of lawyers marched in silence.
Meanwhile, organisers of a mass demonstration in April against the proposals cited an estimated a turnout of 130,000 – one of the largest protests since the 2014 pro-democracy Umbrella Movement.
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