Hong Kong extradition: Debate over bill delayed amid protests

Thousands of protesters and police in Hong Kong are engaged in a stand-off as anger grows over a bill which would allow extradition to mainland China.

Early on Wednesday protesters, some wearing face masks and helmets, blocked key roads around government buildings.

Police in riot gear responded by using pepper spray on protesters to disperse them and said they were prepared to use force.

The Legislative Council (LegCo) has now delayed the second reading of the bill.

The pro-Beijing LegCo released a statement on Wednesday saying that the meeting which was planned for 11:00 local time (03:00 GMT), would be “changed to a later time” adding that members would be notified of the time later.

Despite widespread opposition the government had said it will continue to push for extradition.

A final vote is expected on 20 June with LegCo expected to pass the bill, Hong Kong media report.

What’s happening today?

Thousands of protesters – mostly young people and students – took to the streets and attempted to block access to government buildings ahead of the scheduled debate of the bill.

Protesters outside the Legislative Council building early on Wednesday

“This behaviour has gone beyond the scope of peaceful gatherings,” the Hong Kong Police Force said in a tweet on Wednesday.

“We call on [protesters] to leave as soon as possible… otherwise we will use appropriate force.

Matthew Cheung, Hong Kong’s administration chief, has urged protesters to stop occupying major roads and disperse as soon as possible, the Sing Tao Daily reports.

Mr Cheung said the proposed bill would target only those fugitives involved in serious crimes.

But one young protester, decked in a black mask and gloves, told news site AFP that they would not “leave [until] they scrap the law”.

Police officers spray a lone protestor near the government headquarters
Many were wearing face masks in preparation for clearing operations by police

“After last time, we have more experience and it is more organised,” said Mr Lee, a 51-year-old accountant.

“We don’t know what will happen. But I hope Carrie Lam will change her mind.”

Critics of the bill of amendments to the extradition laws cite the alleged use of torture, arbitrary detentions and forced confessions in the Chinese judicial system.

The government has promised legally binding human rights safeguards and other measures it says should alleviate concerns.

Nevertheless, this has led to the largest rallies the territory has seen since it was handed back to China by the British in 1997.

Police said they are also investigating death threats made against Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, and members of the justice department over the bill.

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