Hong Kong today saw its biggest demonstrations since sit-in protests over proposed electoral reforms brought the city to a standstill five years ago. Incredible aerial shots showed a sea of white as professionals, students, young and old donned the colour to file down Hong Kong’s narrow roads. Protestors waved placards above their heads in sweltering temperatures under the watchful eye of police officials. United by a single aim, the massive crowd called for the end of the extradition law being planned for the autonomous island by China.
Chants of “no China extradition, no evil law” were echoed through the streets.
What is the planned extradition law?
Protestors were rallying against China’s new bill to send suspects to mainland China to face trial.
Human rights groups say the legislation could thwart Hong Kong’s democratic independence and expose its population to the Chinese judicial system.
Campaigners allege detainees in China routinely face torture, arbitrary detentions, forced confessions and problems in accessing lawyers.
Rocky Chang, a 59-year-old professor, told Reuters: “This is the end game for Hong Kong, it is a matter of life or death. That’s why I come. This is an evil law.”
Lawyers wore black for a silent protest held earlier in the week over the same bill.
China has defended its bill saying it is a formality to close loopholes in the system but political dissidents fear it is a tool for being silenced.
Hong Kong was returned to Chinese rule after the British handed back its former colony in 1997 after the lease expired.
The switchover was agreed on the basis that the financial hub’s population would stay protected with is own freedoms and legal system.
Since then, the population of more than seven million people have become more concerned about their rights and what the future holds.
Although it is classed as an autonomous region, Hong Kong is increasingly being targeted for reform by China.
The 2014 protests, known as the Umbrella Revolution, were held to prevent the city’s leaders being chosen by China.
Despite 79 days of demonstrations, the protestors could not get the government to back down – now they face the same thing happening again.
Legislative debates about the bill begin on Wednesday and it could become law by the end of June.
Hong Kong officials say suspects who are facing charges with a maximum of at least seven years will be the only ones affected and safeguards will be adequate.
A government official said on Sunday: “We continue to listen to a wide cross-section of views and opinions and remain to open to suggestions on ways to improve the new regime.”