HONG KONG - Hong Kong will proceed with its controversial plan to allow people to be extradited to mainland China to face charges, even after a massive protest on Sunday, the city's top leader said.
Estimates of the size of the protest crowds vary between a few hundred thousand and a million.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam told reporters that she and her team “have not ignored any views expressed on this very important piece of legislation” but thought it was important to push forward regardless.
‘We have been listening and listening very attentively and very humbly, to views expressed by various sectors,” she told reporters, adding that the government had made several changes to the bill following public criticism.
Under the current bill that will proceed with its second reading at Legislative Council on Wednesday, Hong Kong will in the future be able to extradite to countries where it lacks a long term agreement, like mainland China, Macau and Taiwan.
The prospect of extradition to China in particular, which has a substantially different legal system, has alarmed a wide cross section of Hong Kong from international business groups to legal societies and pro-democracy parties.
Hong Kong is a former British colony granted special autonomy for 50 years after it returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997.
As Lam’s government continues to push forward with the bill despite it widespread unpopularity, she may soon find herself in the midst of a political crisis, says Antony Dapiran, a Hong Kong lawyer and author of “City of Protest: A Recent History of Dissent in Hong Kong.”
"One can assume she’s facing pressure from Beijing to get this done. At the same time you’ve got a million people on the streets and that really does create a crisis of legitimacy for the government,” Dapiran told VOA.
“If they just decide to steamroll through this anyway you have to wonder at what the reaction from the public would be and what that means for anything else the government might want to achieve.”
At Sunday’s protest against the extradition deal, many participants carried signs calling for Lam’s resignation.
The demonstrations are not over, either, as protesters plan to camp outside Legislative Council on Tuesday night and “picnic” on its grounds on Wednesday before the bill’s second reading. Over a hundred businesses plan to close that day to allow their employees to attend.