The organiser of Sunday’s march against Hong Kong’s controversial extradition bill has said it will host more rallies and support voluntary business strikes.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam has refused to back down over the proposal, after the Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF) estimated that a million people joined its demonstration on Sunday. Police said 240,000 attended at the rally’s peak.
The second reading of the bill will resume on Wednesday at the legislature, likely from 3pm onwards after a regular Q&A with Lam.
CHRF convenor Jimmy Sham said they will host more rallies, but he was not certain if they would be able to use the legislature’s protest area as the Legislative Council Secretariat may bar them from doing so. He said they may have to use the sidewalk outside the building in Admiralty instead.
The government’s proposed legal amendments will allow Hong Kong 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 and could reach a final vote before the current legislative period ends in July. The plans have plunged the city’s government into a political crisis as lawyers, journalists, foreign politicians and businesses have raised concerns over the risk of residents being extradited to the mainland, in a rare display of cross-sector unity.
Sham said he had heard of voluntary business strikes planned for Wednesday, adding: “CHRF would be glad to see the strikes.”
Lawmaker Fernando Cheung said the Hong Kong Social Workers’ General Union has called for social workers to strike and surround the Legislative Council during the second reading of the bill.
“We understand that there are concerns over the negative impact on the users of our service, so – of course – we are only calling for a strike by non-emergency services,” he said. “This government, which does not listen to the people, has forced us to take this step.”
Democratic Party Chair and lawmaker Wu Chi-wai said the government treated the protest by 1.03 million people as nothing: “[Carrie Lam] has lost all legitimacy in governing,” Wu said. “I urge the people to use all means at their disposal to paralyse the government.”
Meanwhile, Legislative Council President Andrew Leung said he has approved 153 bill amendments to be debated out of a total of 258 raised by 22 lawmakers.
Leung said it was unprecedented for the bill to resume its second reading in the main chamber without it being discussed by a bills committee – therefore, he approved amendments that did not violate the house rules for debate.
Democrats and pro-Beijing lawmakers fought over the legitimacy of the chairperson at the bills committees, leading the government to fast-track the bill’s progress through the legislature.
When asked if the government would retract the bill following the high turnout of Sunday’s march, Leung said that – because the government decided to resume second reading – he could only follow the existing procedures as president.
Sunday’s largely peaceful demonstration ended in clashes between police and demonstrators around the legislature and government headquarters, with pepper spray being deployed to disperse crowds.
The police said on Monday that eight police officers were injured during the clashes and 19 people were arrested. Items such as scissors, knives and protective clothing were confiscated from protesters.
They said batons and pepper spray were used but denied using tear gas canisters, adding that police officers have experience in dealing with large crowds and are confident in their abilities to handle Wednesday’s proposed rally.
In addition to the Civil Front’s plans, messages have been circulating on messaging apps calling on Hongkongers to gather at Admiralty at 11pm on Tuesday, ahead of Wednesday’s legislative session.
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