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Mass protests in Hong Kong over fear of legal critics could allow China to grab anyone

Critics say that the bill makes one on Hong Kong soil vulnerable to Chinese authorities' seizure for political reasons or for accidental corporate violations and undermines the city's semi-autonomous legal system.

The bill has led to political stalemate, rebellion in the city's generally conservative business world, even to physical brawls in the city legislature as well as to criticism of the Hong Kong government by the United States and the European Union ,

According to the government, the bill aims to fill in loopholes by allowing Hong Kong to decide on a case-by-case basis whether to send refugees to areas without formal extradition agreements or not ̵
1; such as Taiwan, Macau and mainland China. The legislator said the guarantee of a fair trial was not included in the bill.

A horrific murder case in Taiwan, in which a 20-year-old woman from Hong Kong was said to have been killed by her boyfriend on vacation, has accelerated the case for the bill. At present, the suspect can not be sent from Hong Kong to Taiwan to be tried there.

However, Taipei has already announced that it will refuse to cooperate with the new law if it runs the risk of extradition of Taiwanese citizens to China. On the self-governing island, citizens have previously been accused of committing crimes in countries that Taiwan, despite objections from Taipei, does not recognize as diplomatic detained.

Earlier this week, Chris Patten, the last British Governor of Hong Kong, beat the bill.

"People knew exactly why there was no extradition treaty with China for years," Patten said in a video message on Thursday. "The argument that it is better to have an extradition agreement than to kidnap people illegally from Hong Kong – is that what people really believe?"
Last month, representatives of the European Union met Hong Kong CEO Carrie Lam. meanwhile, they expressed concern about the bill. Members of the Executive Committee of the US Congress for China (CECC) have also opposed the bill, warning Lam that he "could negatively affect the relationship between the United States and Hong Kong."
  A woman holds a Hong Kong poster in hand of Chief Executive Carrie Lam, against a proposed extradition law, in front of a candlelit vigil on June 4, 2019 at Victoria Park in Hong Kong.

Unwanted and unnecessary?

Hong Kong economic groups generally adopt a neutral stance on contentious political issues. This time they have also spoken out against the bill. In order to secure their support, the government has limited the scope of extraditable offenses – but for some this is still insufficient.

The Hong Kong Chamber of Commerce warned last week that there was "too much uncertainty in basic sections of the bill to allow it to be passed in its present form.

"Hong Kong is not ready to see the adoption of this bill, and we do not see why it should be breached when the gap it seeks to close has existed for 20 years," AmCham said in a statement.

Government spokesman Matthew Cheung said the move was time-critical.

"The suspect in the Taiwanese murder case is serving sentences for other offenses in Hong Kong, but is expected to be released in October this year." "There is an urgent need to provide a legal basis for the aid we want to give Taiwan before the (Legislature) goes into summer recess from mid-July to October."

Cheung did not respond to Taipei's concerns about the bill. Regardless, Lam said it was "unfounded" to suggest to the Hong Kong government "simply follow the instructions of the central government and surrender all the refugees the central government desires."

Violent Opposition

The extradition law, in particular the attempt to accelerate it through Hong Kong's semi-democratic legislation, has revived the city's declining opposition movement after numerous setbacks.

Organizers claimed that 130,000 people participated in a protest against the bill in April. Although the police claimed the lower figure of 22,800, it was still the biggest protest since the Umbrella Movement in 2014, an ultimately unsuccessful protest against political reform that shut down parts of the city for months.

Fears over the bill – and the criticisms of a wide circle of Hong Kong society – reflect the year 2003, when half a million people took to the streets to oppose the adoption of a law against insurgency. This legislation has been postponed, but the issue has become such a hot topic in Hong Kong that, although it has been pledged, no government has ever tried to introduce it.

Sunday's protest follows the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre on June 4th. This was a crucial moment that nullified the hope that China would democratize before taking control of Hong Kong in 1997. Since then, the candlelight vigil has been the only place on Chinese soil where mass memories are held. According to organizers, more than 180,000 people joined a vigil on Tuesday in the city's Victoria Park, the largest event since the 25th anniversary in 2014 that preceded the Umbrella protests.

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