Asia Pacific

Pressure grows on Hong Kong over extradition bill that has prompted massive protests


Hong Kong is facing growing international pressure over its controversial extradition bill, with the European Union becoming the latest to add its voice to the chorus of criticism over the bill.

The EU “shares many of the concerns raised by citizens of Hong Kong regarding the government’s proposed extradition reforms,” it said, calling for the rights of Hong Kongers to be respected.

The economic bloc said the proposed law had “potentially far-reaching consequences for Hong Kong and its people, for EU and foreign citizens, as well as for business confidence in Hong Kong.”

Demonstrators who surrounded the city’s Legislative Council — its government — on Wednesday forced a postponement of the reading of the bill.

But Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing leader, Carrie Lam, has shown no signs of backing down, and said the protests were “organized riots.”

Students, democracy campaigners, religious groups and business representatives in the semiautonomous territory have spoken out against the bill.

The Hong Kong Bar Association said the police “may well have overstepped its lawful powers” with “wholly unnecessary force against largely unarmed protesters who did not appear to pose any immediate threat to the police or the public.”

The government says the bill is necessary to fix a loophole that prevents Hong Kong from sending criminal suspects back to jurisdictions they have fled — including to mainland China.

But opponents say it would be abused by an increasingly assertive Beijing to pursue its political enemies and to ensnare dissidents in an opaque and politically motivated justice system.

The international community has also voiced concern.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said it is vital that the proposed law does not breach the U.K.-Sino agreement signed at the time of the city’s return to China in 1997.

Speaking in Parliament, she said her government was concerned about the “potential effects of these proposals — particularly, obviously, given the large number of British citizens there are in Hong Kong.”

U.S. President Donald Trump told reporters in Washington he could “understand the reason for the demonstration” and said he hoped “it all works out for China and for Hong Kong.”

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