You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Hong Kong crisis deepens as China extradition bill moves forward

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 11/06/2019 Timothy McLaughlin
a group of people standing in front of a building: Police officers patrol outside the Legislative Council building Tuesday ahead of Wednesday’s hearing on the extradition bill in Hong Kong. © Thomas Peter/Reuters Police officers patrol outside the Legislative Council building Tuesday ahead of Wednesday’s hearing on the extradition bill in Hong Kong.

HONG KONG —Police chained together metal barricades outside Hong Kong’s main legislative complex Tuesday as protesters vowed to return to the streets in a deepening crisis over a proposed law that would allow for extraditions to mainland China.

Hong Kong lawmakers — controlled by a pro-Beijing bloc — plan to move ahead with the bill despite massive demonstrations Sunday that displayed the underlying tensions in the former British colony over Chinese rule.

Critics of the bills say it threatens the “one country, two party” framework that has given Hong Kong a degree of political autonomy from Beijing since it was handed back to China in 1997.

The showdown over the bill marks the most serious political turmoil in Hong Kong since a wave of pro-democracy demonstrations five years ago that brought street clashes and arrests of protest leaders.

On Tuesday, protesters planned rallies and all-night vigils despite warnings from Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, not to take “radical action.” Meanwhile, labor unions and small businesses across Asia’s financial capital planned more strikes.

(Related slideshow by The Atlantic)

In a sign of the rising stakes, more than 4,000 aviation employees from various carriers, including the flagship Cathay Pacific Airways, signed a petition requesting to join the strikes.

“I hope schools, parents, organizations, businesses and unions consider things thoroughly before advocating any radical actions,” Lam said Tuesday. “What good would it do to Hong Kong society . . . and our young people?”

The warning came after Lam told reporters Monday that the government would proceed with the bill, which has galvanized an unusually broad swath of opposition, “out of our clear conscience and our commitment to Hong Kong.”

Lam’s persistence has incensed those opposed to the bill, who accuse her of doing the bidding of Beijing rather than representing the people of Hong Kong.

“Carrie Lam ignored the voice of more than a million of our citizens. It is totally unacceptable,” said Bonnie Leung, vice convener of the Civil Human Rights Front, which organized Sunday’s demonstration and estimated the number of attendees at more than 1 million. “It’s very angering. The Hong Kong people should take this as a test, to test what price Hong Kong people are willing to pay to fight for our cause, to fight for our rule of law.”

Carrie Lam wearing glasses and smiling at the camera: Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam listens to reporters questions during a press conference in Hong Kong on Monday. © Vincent Yu/AP Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam listens to reporters questions during a press conference in Hong Kong on Monday.

The bill is scheduled for a second reading by lawmakers Wednesday in the city’s 70-seat Legislative Council, which is controlled by a pro-Beijing majority. The president of the legislature, Andrew Leung, said Tuesday that 66 hours of debate would be held, followed by a final vote by June 20.

A petition circulated online called for 50,000 people to gather at the Legislative Council offices in central Hong Kong late Tuesday and surround the building through the night in anticipation of Wednesday’s debate by lawmakers. By Tuesday evening, police had already begun cordoning off areas around the offices.

Ip Kin-yuen, vice president of the Professional Teachers’ Union, Hong Kong’s largest teachers union, urged teachers to join the demonstration and said he would hold discussions over the weekend about a school strike. Other labor unions, including the Hong Kong Social Workers General Union, have already called a strike for Wednesday.

Hundreds of small businesses — Chinese medicine shops, art supply stores and cafes — with more joining by the hour, took to social media platforms and plastered subway stations with posters to announce that they would shutter Wednesday in support of demonstrators and to allow workers to attend protests. Other business owners said they would allow employees to skip work.

“For the children, for the future, allow us to be brave,” one bridal shop wrote in a message on Instagram attached to a post announcing its closure.

The six employees of HKCamera, a camera shop in Kowloon’s Tsim Sha Tsui district, quickly agreed to close Wednesday in solidarity with other striking businesses, owner Zeiss Lik Hang Choy told The Washington Post. He was not concerned, he said, with missing a day of potential sales.

“We closed on June 9, too, and we are not worried about closing tomorrow,” he said. “We will not be worried if we have to close more days in the future for real democracy.”

Bleak House Books, an independent bookstore, said it was closing “to attend to more pressing matters.”

“Ah that pesky Hong Kong spirit is rearing its ugly head again. Refusing to back down in the face of adversity,” a post on Facebook from the shop said. “We stand with our brothers and sisters in their fight for a better Hong Kong.”

Lam and her pro-Beijing supporters have insisted that the bill is needed to plug legal loopholes and prevent Hong Kong from becoming a haven for fugitives. The bill has been hastened by the case of a Hong Kong man accused of killing his girlfriend in Taiwan. Officials in Taiwan — the de facto independent island that Chinese President Xi Jinping has sought to absorb by promising it political autonomy — have said, however, that they would not agree to any extradition agreement under the new legislation because it would treat Taiwan as part of China. Lam has said that Beijing played no role in creating the bill.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen voiced her support for the “freedom-loving people” of Hong Kong on Sunday.

Jinggoy Estrada standing in front of a crowd: Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Hong Kong over the weekend calling for authorities to scrap a proposed extradition bill with China. © Thomas Peter/Reuters Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Hong Kong over the weekend calling for authorities to scrap a proposed extradition bill with China.

The enormous demonstration Sunday and continued frustration of many in Hong Kong have created for Lam the “greatest crisis for the credibility and authority of her administration,” said Peter T.Y. Cheung, an associate professor at the University of Hong Kong’s department of politics and public administration. “Although it is unlikely that most people would be affected by the proposed bill, many in Hong Kong no longer believe that she [Lam] would defend Hong Kong’s core values such as freedom and the rule of law and her way of life.”

Given the Legislative Council’s pro-Beijing majority, the bill’s passage is all but certain, but Bonnie Leung urged all residents of Hong Kong to continue to take to the streets to voice their dissatisfaction.

“This [is] only the beginning of our campaign,” she said. “The main battlefield is next week or even two weeks later. The power is building up.”

foreign @washpost.com

AdChoices
AdChoices

More From The Washington Post

The Washington Post
The Washington Post
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon