Protesters charged police lines to try to force their way into the Legislative Council building, and police charged back, using pepper spray, after warning the protesters. More than half a million people have amassed on the streets to thwart a proposed extradition law that would allow suspects to be sent to mainland China to face trial. For many people it was their first protest march, with some remarking on the strong sense of unity among the diverse crowds.
“I come here to fight,” said a wheelchair-bound, 78-year-old man surnamed Lai, who was among the first to arrive.
Teacher Garry Chiu joined the protest with his wife and one-year-old daughter, saying: “It is no longer about me.”
Chiu added: “I need to save my daughter.
“If the law is implemented, anyone can disappear from Hong Kong.
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“No one will get justice in China.
“We know there are no human rights,”
Kelvin Tam, a student in London said: “The extradition bill will directly threaten the core values of Hong Kong and rule of law.
“It will remove the firewall of Hong Kong judicial independence.”
The demonstration capped weeks of growing outrage in the business, diplomatic and legal communities, which fear corrosion of Hong Kong’s legal autonomy and the difficulty of ensuring basic judicial protections in mainland China.
U.S. and European officials have issued formal warnings – concern matched by international business and human rights lobbies that fear the changes would dent Hong Kong’s rule of law.
The streets of Hong Kong were packed along the route and protestors chanted “No China extradition, no evil law”.
The unusually broad opposition to the rendition bill displayed on Sunday came amid a series of government moves to deepen links between southern mainland China and Hong Kong.
Chants of “No China extradition, no evil law” echoed through the city streets, while other marchers called for Lam and other senior officials to step down.
Debates will start in the council on Wednesday on the amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance.
The bill could be passed into law by the end of June.
Lam has tweaked the amendments but refused to pull the bill, saying it is vital to plug a long-standing “loophole”.
She has also said speedy action is needed to ensure a Hong Kong man suspected of murdering his girlfriend can be sent to Taiwan for trial.
Opposition to the bill has united a broad range of the community, from usually pro-establishment business people and lawyers to students, pro-democracy figures and religious groups.
Insurance agents, executives and small entrepreneurs joined bus drivers and mechanics in the streets on Sunday.