2019 Hong Kong extradition bill

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Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019
Regional Emblem of Hong Kong.svg
Legislative Council of Hong Kong
Considered byLegislative Council of Hong Kong
Legislative history
Bill published on29 March 2019
Introduced bySecretary for Security John Lee
First reading3 April 2019
Related legislation
Fugitive Offenders Ordinance
Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance
Status: Halted

The Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019 (Chinese: 2019年逃犯及刑事事宜相互法律協助法例(修訂)條例草案) is a proposed bill regarding extradition to amend the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance (Cap. 503) in relation to special surrender arrangements and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance (Cap. 525) so that arrangements for mutual legal assistance can be made between Hong Kong and any place outside Hong Kong.[2] The bill was proposed by the Hong Kong government in February 2019. The government proposed to establish a mechanism for transfers of fugitives not only for Taiwan, but also for Mainland China and Macau, which are not covered in the existing laws.[3]

The introduction of the bill caused widespread criticism domestically and abroad from the legal profession, journalist organisations, business groups, and foreign governments fearing the further erosion of Hong Kong's legal system and its built-in safeguards, as well as damaging Hong Kong's business climate. They were concerned about the heightened risk that Hong Kong citizens and foreign nationals passing through the city could be sent for trial to Mainland China, where courts are under Chinese political control.[4][5] Authorities in Taipei stated that Taiwan would not agree to extradite any suspects from Hong Kong, on grounds that Taiwanese citizens in Hong Kong would be at greater risk of being extradited to Mainland China under the proposed bill, and suggested that legislation was politically motivated.[6][7] The Hong Kong government's rush to implement the legislation to extradite also gave rise to a precedent to short-circuit procedural safeguards in the Legislative Council.[8]

There have been multiple protests against the bill in Hong Kong and other cities abroad. On 9 June, protesters estimated to number from hundreds of thousands to more than a million marched in the streets and called for Chief Executive Carrie Lam to step down.[9][10] The 12 June protests outside the Legislative Council descended into violent clashes between the police and protesters, with at least 79 people injured and another round of international attention. On 15 June Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced she would suspend the proposed bill indefinitely.[11] An estimation of nearly two million protesters as claimed by the organisers marched in the streets, calling for a full withdrawal of the bill on 16 June.[12]

Background[edit]

In early 2018, 19-year-old Hong Kong resident Chan Tong-kai allegedly killed his pregnant girlfriend Poon Hiu-wing in Taiwan, proceeding to return to Hong Kong. Chan admitted to Hong Kong police that he killed Poon but the police were unable to charge him for murder or extradite him to Taiwan because no agreement is in place.[13] Until May 2019, the two ordinances in Hong Kong, the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance, were not applicable to the requests for surrender of fugitive offenders and mutual legal assistance between Hong Kong and Taiwan.[13][14] In February 2019, the government proposed changes to fugitive laws, establishing a mechanism for case-by-case transfers of fugitives by the Hong Kong Chief Executive to any jurisdiction with which the city lacks a formal extradition treaty, which it claimed would close the "legal loophole".[15]

Provisions[edit]

The key provisions of the bill, as originally tabled, are as follows:
In the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance (FOO) (Cap. 503):[16]

  1. To differentiate case-based surrender arrangements (to be defined as "special surrender arrangements" in the proposal) from general long-term surrender arrangements;
  2. To stipulate that special surrender arrangements will be applicable to Hong Kong and any place outside Hong Kong, and they will only be considered if there are no applicable long-term surrender arrangements;
  3. To specify that special surrender arrangements will cover 37 of the 46 items of offences based on their existing description in Schedule 1 of the FOO, and the offences are punishable with imprisonment for more than three years (later adjusted to seven years) and triable on indictment in Hong Kong. A total of nine items of offences will not be dealt with under the special surrender arrangements;
  4. To specify that the procedures in the FOO will apply in relation to special surrender arrangements (except that an alternative mechanism for activating the surrender procedures by a certificate issued by the Chief Executive is provided), which may be subject to further limitations on the circumstances in which the person may be surrendered as specified in the arrangements;
  5. To provide that a certificate issued by or under the authority of the Chief Executive is conclusive evidence of there being special surrender arrangements, such that the certificate will serve as a basis to activate the surrender procedures. Such activation does not mean that the fugitive will definitely be surrendered as the request must go through all statutory procedures, including the issuance of an authority to proceed by the Chief Executive, the committal hearing by the court and the eventual making of the surrender order by the Chief Executive. Other procedural safeguards, such as application for habeas corpus, application for discharge in case of delay, and judicial review of the Chief Executive's decision, as provided under the FOO will remain unchanged;

And in the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance (MLAO) (Cap. 525):[16]

  1. To lift the geographical restriction on the scope of application of the Ordinance; and
  2. To provide that case-based co-operation premised on the undertaking of reciprocity will be superseded by the long-term MLA arrangements once the latter have been made and become effective.

Concerns[edit]

Opposition expressed fears about the legislation that the city would open itself up to the long arm of mainland Chinese law and that people from Hong Kong fall victim to a different legal system. It therefore urged the government to establish an extradition arrangement with Taiwan only, and to sunset the arrangement immediately after the surrender of Chan Tong-kai.[15][17]

Business community[edit]

The business community also raised concerns over the mainland's court system. The Liberal Party and the Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong (BPA), the two pro-business parties, suggested 15 economic crimes being exempted from the 46 offences covered by the extradition proposal.[18] The American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong (AmCham) criticised the mainland's "criminal process is plagued by deep flaws, including lack of an independent judiciary, arbitrary detention, lack of fair public trial, lack of access to legal representation and poor prison conditions".[19] The government responded to business chambers' concerns by exempting nine of the economic crimes originally targeted. Only offences punishable by at least three years in prison would trigger the transfer of a fugitive, up from the previously stated one year.[20]

On 1 April, Hong Kong billionaire tycoon Joseph Lau, former chair of the Chinese Estates Holdings who was convicted of bribery and money laundering in a land deal in Macau in 2014, applied for a judicial review over the bill in court. Lau's lawyers asked the court to make a declaration that the surrender of Lau to Macau would contravene the Hong Kong Bill of Rights.[21] Lau made an abrupt U-turn and dropped a legal challenge on 29 May, saying that he "loves his country and Hong Kong" and that he now supported the legislation.[22]

Legal sector[edit]

The Hong Kong Bar Association released a statement expressing its reservations over the bill, saying that the restriction against any surrender arrangements with mainland China was not a "loophole", but existed in light of the fundamentally different criminal justice system operating in the Mainland, and concerns over the Mainland's track record on the protection of fundamental rights. The association also questioned the accountability of the Chief Executive as the only arbiter of whether a special arrangement was to be concluded with a requesting jurisdiction without the scrutiny of the Legislative Council or without expanding the role of the courts in vetting extradition requests.[23] Twelve current and former chairs of the Bar Association warned that the government's "oft-repeated assertion that the judges will be gatekeepers is misleading" as "the proposed new legislation does not give the Court power to review such matters and the Court would be in no such position to do so."[24]

Three senior judges and twelve leading commercial and criminal lawyers called the bill "one of the starkest challenges to Hong Kong's legal system" in a Reuters report. They feared it would "put [the courts] on a collision course with Beijing" as the limited scope of extradition hearings would leave them little room to manoeuvre. They worry that if they tried to stop high-profile suspects from being sent across the border, they would be exposed to criticism and political pressure from Beijing. The judges and lawyers said that under Hong Kong's British-based common law system, extraditions are based on the presumption of a fair trial and humane punishment in the receiving country—a presumption they say China's Communist Party-controlled legal system has not earned.[24]

Human rights groups[edit]

Amnesty International, Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor, and Human Rights Watch declared their opposition to the bill, warning the extradition proposal could be used as a tool to intimidate critics of the Hong Kong or Chinese governments, peaceful activists, human rights defenders and could further expose those extradited to risks of torture or ill-treatment. The Hong Kong Journalists Association, other journalists unions and independent media outlets said the amendment would "not only threaten the safety of journalists but also have a chilling effect on the freedom of expression in Hong Kong."[25]

Taiwan response[edit]

Although Taiwan authorities attempted to negotiate directly with the Hong Kong government to work out a special arrangement, the Hong Kong government did not respond. Taipei also stated it would not enter into any extradition agreement with Hong Kong that defined Taiwan as part of the People's Republic of China. It opposed the proposed bill on grounds that Taiwanese citizens would be at greater risk of being extradited to Mainland China.[7] "Without the removal of threats to the personal safety of [Taiwan] nationals going to or living in Hong Kong caused by being extradited to mainland China, we will not agree to the case-by-case transfer proposed by the Hong Kong authorities," said Chiu Chui-cheng, deputy minister of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council. He also described the Taipei homicide case as an "excuse" and questioned whether Hong Kong government's legislation was "politically motivated". He added that Taiwanese people feared ending up like Lee Ming-che, a democracy activist who disappeared on a trip to the Chinese mainland and was later jailed for "subverting state power".[13]

April 28 demonstration[edit]

Thousands of protesters marched on the street against the proposed extradition law on 28 April 2019.

Bookseller Lam Wing-kee, who was kidnapped by Chinese agents in Shenzhen in 2015,[26][27] left Hong Kong for Taiwan on 27 April, fearing the proposed extradition law would mean he could be sent to mainland China.[28]

On 28 April, an estimated 130,000 protesters joined the march against proposed extradition law. The turnout was the largest since an estimated 510,000 joined the annual July 1 protest in 2014.[29][30][31] A day after the protest, Chief Executive Carrie Lam was adamant that the bill would be enacted and said the Legislative Councillors had to pass new extradition laws before their summer break, even though the man at the heart of a case used to justify the urgency of new legislation Chan Tong-kai had been jailed for 29 months shortly before.

Carrie Lam also dismissed the assertion that the mainland was intentionally excluded from the extradition laws ahead of the handover of Hong Kong in 1997 as "trash talk". She denied that there were fears over the mainland's legal system after the handover, or that China had agreed to the exclusion. However, her claim was refuted by last colonial governor of Hong Kong Chris Patten and then Chief Secretary Anson Chan. "Both Hong Kong and China knew very well that there had to be a firewall between our different legal systems," said Patten.[32] Patten also warned that the extradition law would be the "worst thing" to happen in Hong Kong since the 1997 handover, saying that it would remove the firewall between Hong Kong and mainland China.[33] Malcolm Rifkind, former British Foreign Secretary who oversaw the final stages of the handover, also denied that the lack of extradition arrangements between Hong Kong and the Mainland was "a loophole". He stated that "negotiators from both China and the UK made a conscious decision to create a clear divide between the two systems so that the rule of law remains robust", and that "lawyers and politicians from across the political spectrum in Hong Kong have proposed multiple other viable solutions which will ensure that Chan faces justice".[34]

Legislative Council row[edit]

Members of two rival camps pushed and shoved each other in the Bills Committee meeting on 11 May 2019.

The pro-democracy camp which stringently opposed the law, deployed filibustering tactics by stalling the first two meetings of the Bills Committee, by preventing the election of a committee chairman. The House Committee with pro-Beijing majority removed Democratic Party's James To, the most senior member, from his position of presiding member, and replaced him with the third most senior member, pro-Beijing Abraham Shek of the Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong (BPA), thereby bypassing the second most senior member Leung Yiu-chung, a pro-democrat. To claimed that the move was illegitimate, adding that the secretariat had abused its power in issuing the circular without having any formal discussion. The pro-democrats insisted on going ahead with a 6 May meeting as planned which was rescheduled by Shek with only 20 members present. To and Civic Party's Dennis Kwok were elected chair and vice chair of the committee.[35]

Attempts to hold meetings on 11 May descended into chaos as the rival factions pushed and shoved each other along the packed hallway for the control of holding meeting in the same room. A number of legislators fell to the ground, including Gary Fan who fell from a table before he was sent to hospital.[36] On 14 May, the meeting with two rival presiding chairmen descended into chaos again. Subsequently, pro-Beijing presiding chairman Abraham Shek announced that he could not hold a meeting and asked the House Committee for guidance.[37] On 20 May, Secretary for Security John Lee announced that the government would resume the second reading of the bill in a full Legislative Council meeting on 12 June, bypassing the usual practice of scrutinising the bill in the Bills Committee.[38] After a five-hour meeting on 24 May, the House Committee of the Legislative Council dominated by the pro-Beijing camp passed a motion in support of the government's move to resume the second reading of the bill at a full council meeting on 12 June.

International escalation[edit]

Beijing weighs in[edit]

The Beijing authorities weighed in when Director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office Zhang Xiaoming met a delegation led by Executive Councillor Ronny Tong in Beijing on 15 May in which Zhang showed support of the extradition law. At the same time, a delegation led by former pro-democrat legislator Martin Lee met with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who later released statement that he "expressed concern" that the bill could threaten the city's rule of law. On 17 May, Director of the Liaison Office Wang Zhimin met more than 250 Beijing loyalists in Hong Kong in a two-hour closed-door meeting to instructing them to fully support the Chief Executive and her administration’s push to pass the bill.[39] Vice Premier Han Zheng and chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference Wang Yang also spoke in favour of the extradition bill—becoming the highest-ranking Chinese state officials to give their public endorsement.[40] Chief Executive Carrie Lam defended Beijing's involvement, saying that mainland officials offered their views only after the bill controversy was "escalated" by foreign powers, which seized an opportunity to attack the mainland's legal system and human rights record. It was escalated to the level of "One Country, Two Systems" and the constitutionality concerning the Basic Law.[38]

Foreign pressure[edit]

On 24 May, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung held a special meeting involving 100 officials including principal officials, permanent secretaries and their deputies ostensibly to "bring them up to speed on the justification for the extradition law". Meanwhile, 11 European Union representatives met with Carrie Lam and then issued a démarche to formally protest against the bill.[4][41] Also on 24 May, eight commissioners from the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), Marco Rubio, Tom Cotton, Steve Daines from the U.S. Senate, as well as James McGovern, Ben McAdams, Christopher Smith, Thomas Suozzi and Brian Mast from the U.S. House of Representatives wrote to Chief Executive Carrie Lam asking that the bill be "withdrawn from consideration", stating that "the proposed legislation would irreparably damage Hong Kong's cherished autonomy and protections for human rights by allowing the Chinese government to request extradition of business persons, journalists, rights advocates, and political activists residing in Hong Kong." The commissioners added that the bill could "negatively impact the unique relationship between the U.S. and Hong Kong"—referring to the longstanding U.S. policy of giving the city preferential treatment over mainland China based on the United States–Hong Kong Policy Act.[40]

The UK-based Hong Kong Watch also issued a petition on 29 May signed by 15 parliamentarians from various countries against the extradition bill. Signatories included Member of the House of Lords David Alton, Liberal Democrat Chief Whip of the House of Commons Alistair Carmichael, Leader of the Alliance 90/The Greens in the Bundestag Katrin Göring-Eckardt, Deputy Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs in the Canadian Parliament Garnett Genuis, Member of the Parliament of Malaysia and Chairman of the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights Charles Santiago, Member of the European Parliament from Austria Josef Weidenholzer, seven U.S. Senators and one U.S. Representative.[42]

The American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong (AmCham) issued a statement on 30 May, questioning the government's decision to push the bill through. "Hong Kong is not ready to see this bill passed, and we do not see why it should be rushed through when the loophole it seeks to address has existed for 20 years," the statement read. AmCham also sent Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung eight questions related to the bill following Cheung meeting with the foreign chambers of commerce on the previous day, pressing the government on how it planned to address concerns from foreign diplomats in Hong Kong, and how it would ensure that the requesting jurisdictions could guarantee a fair trial. "Why would Hong Kong want to risk its reputation for the rule of law to gain this new reputation of 'combating crimes' with the city's relatively low crime rate?" the chamber asked.[43]

On 30 May, a joint statement was issued by British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland to urge Hong Kong to ensure the new law was in-keeping with the city's autonomy. "We are concerned about the potential effect of these proposals on the large number of UK and Canadian citizens in Hong Kong, on business confidence and on Hong Kong's international reputation. Furthermore, we believe that there is a risk that the proposals could impact negatively on the rights and freedoms set down in the Sino-British Joint Declaration," the statement said.[44][45]

Online petitions[edit]

More than 167,000 students, alumni and teachers from all public universities and hundreds of secondary schools in Hong Kong, including St. Francis' Canossian College which Carrie Lam attended, also launched online petitions against the extradition bill in a snowballing campaign.[46] St. Mary's Canossian College and Wah Yan College, Kowloon, which Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng and Secretary for Security John Lee attended, respectively, also joined the campaign. Even the alumni, students and teachers at St. Stephen's College, which the victim in the Taiwan homicide case Poon Hiu-wing attended from Form 1 to Form 3, were unconvinced as they accused the government of using her case as a pretext to force the bill's passage.[47] High Court judge Patrick Li Hon-leung's signature was spotted on a petition signed by nearly 3,000 fellow University of Hong Kong alumni. A spokeswoman for the judiciary said Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma had reminded judges they should refrain from expressing their personal opinions on political issues, and particularly on legal issues that might come before the courts.[48]

No-confidence vote[edit]

Democratic Party legislator Andrew Wan moved a motion of no-confidence against Carrie Lam on 29 May on the grounds that Lam "blatantly lied" about the extradition bill and misled the public and the international community, as Lam claimed that colonial officials did not deliberately exclude China from extradition laws ahead of the 1997 Handover. It was the first no-confidence vote against her since she took the office in July 2017. Lam survived the vote with the backing of the pro-Beijing majority in the legislature. Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung defended Lam's record to and dismissed the motion as "an unnecessary political gesture".[49]

May 30 amendments[edit]

On 30 May, Secretary for Security John Lee rolled out six new measures to limit the scope of extraditable crimes and raise the bar to those punishable by the sentence of three years to seven years or above—a key demand from the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce (HKGCC). Only requests from top judicial bodies of a requesting jurisdiction, namely the Supreme People's Procuratorate and Supreme People's Court in Mainland China, may be considered. Lee's announcement came hours after a group of 39 pro-Beijing legislators called for the bill to be amended. Their two demands—raising the threshold on extraditable crimes and allowing only extradition requests from the mainland's top authority—were both accepted by the government.[50]

The government promulgated on 30 May the provision of "additional safeguards" in the following three aspects:[51]

  1. limiting the application of special surrender arrangements to the most serious offences only by raising the threshold requirement for applicable offences from imprisonment for more than three years to seven years or above;
  2. including safeguards that are in line with common human rights protection in the activation of special surrender arrangements, such as presumption of innocence, open trial, legal representation, right to cross-examine witnesses, no coerced confession, right to appeal, etc.; and the requesting party must guarantee that the effective limitation period of the relevant offence has not lapsed; and
  3. enhancing protection for the interests of surrendered persons, such as processing only requests from the central authority (as opposed to the local authority) of a place, following up with the Mainland the arrangements for helping sentenced persons to serve their sentence in Hong Kong, negotiating appropriate means and arrangements for post-surrender visits, etc.
Thousands of lawyers marched in black against the bill on 6 June 2019.

Hong Kong's five major business chambers—the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce (HKGCC), the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce, the Chinese Manufacturers' Association of Hong Kong, the Federation of Hong Kong Industries, and the Hong Kong Chinese Importers' and Exporters' Association quickly welcomed the concessions, but legal scholars and pro-democrats opposing the bill argued there was still no guarantee of human rights and fair treatment for fugitives sent across the border.[52] John Lee dismissed calls to embed those safeguards in the proposed bill, claiming the current proposal would offer greater flexibility, adding he was confident mainland authorities would stay true to their promises, even without protection clauses in the bill.[53]

The Law Society of Hong Kong urged the government not to rush the legislation but should stop to conduct extensive consultation before it goes any further. The Bar Association said in response to the concessions that the additional safeguards provided by the government was "riddled with uncertainties ...[and that it] offers scarcely any reliable assurances."[54]

On 6 June, some 3,000 Hong Kong lawyers, representing around one quarter of the city's lawyers, marched against the bill. Wearing black, they marched from the Court of Final Appeal to the Central Government Offices. While lawyers expressed grave reservations about the openness and fairness of the justice system in China, limited access to a lawyer, and the prevalence of torture, Secretary for Security John Lee said the legal sector did not really understand the bill.[55]

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Monitor and more than 70 other non-governmental organisations wrote an open letter to Chief Executive Carrie Lam on 7 June stating the "serious shortcomings in the proposed amendment", claiming that the additional safeguards would still be unlikely to provide genuine and effective protection as it did not resolve the real risk of torture or other ill-treatment, including detention in poor conditions for indefinite periods, or other serious human rights violations which are prohbited under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.[56]

June 9 march[edit]

The organisers claimed there were a record breaking 1.03 million protesters in the streets on 9 June.

A long march from Victoria Park, Causeway Bay to the Legislative Council in Admiralty was launched by the Civil Human Rights Front on 9 June.[57][58][59] The number of protesters arrived at Hong Kong Island from early afternoon to late evening on the MTR caused the metro network to stop train arrivals at Tin Hau and Causeway Bay stations.[60] Protesters had to get off at Fortress Hill in order to join the protest from there. Police urged protesters to march from Victoria Park before the 3 pm start-time to prevent overcrowding. A large number of protesters were leaving Victoria Park up to four hours after the start time and were still arriving at the end-point at Admiralty seven hours after the protest began. Police opened up all lanes on Hennessy Road after initially refusing to do so. Hundreds of thousands of protesters were drawn to the street, chanting "Scrap the evil law," "Oppose China extradition" and "Carrie Lam resign".[61]

Jimmy Sham, convener of the Civil Human Rights Front claimed 1.03 million people attended the march, the largest protest Hong Kong has ever seen since 1997 handover, surpassing the turnout seen at mass rallies in support of the Tiananmen protests of 1989 and 2003 July 1 demonstration.[62] However, the police had a more conservative estimate of 240,000 at its peak.[63] Similar protests were also launched in cities such as New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Toronto, Vancouver, London, Berlin, Frankfurt, Tokyo, Sydney and Taipei.

Hundreds of protesters camped out in front of the government headquarters into the night, with more joining them in response to calls from Demosisto and pro-independence activists to surround the Legislative Council building. The Civil Human Rights Front officially called an end to the march at 10 pm. However, there were still many protesters at the compound. A stand-off with police around midnight descended into chaos, with protesters throwing bottles and metal barriers at the police when the police tried to drive them away with batons and pepper spray.[63]

Chief Executive Carrie Lam at the press conference with Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng and Secretary for Security John Lee one day after the massive protest on 10 June.

At 11 pm, the government issued a press statement, saying that it "acknowledge[s] and respect[s] that people have different views on a wide range of issues", but insisted the second reading debate on the bill would resume on 12 June.[64] Following the 10 June violent clashes coming after the government's statement, Lam spoke in the next morning, admitting that the size of the rally showed there were "clearly still concerns" over the bill but refused to withdraw the bill.[65] She refused to draw in to the questions of whether she would fulfil her promise that she would resign "if mainstream opinion makes me no longer able to continue the job" in her 2017 Chief Executive election campaign, only saying that it was important to have a stable governing team "at a time when our economy is going to undergo some very severe challenges because of external uncertainties."[66]

After the protest, the Beijing government blamed "outside interference" and voiced its support to the Hong Kong administration. Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang accused opponents of the proposed legislation of "collusion with the West".[67] State-run media such as China Daily cited more than 700,000 people backing the legislation through an online petition, "countering a protest by about 240,000 people"[68][67] while the Global Times dismissed the mass demonstration on 9 June, stating that "some international forces have significantly strengthened their interaction with the Hong Kong opposition in recent months".[69] The protests were mostly censored from Mainland Chinese social media.[70]

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus voiced support to the June 9 protesters, saying that "the peaceful demonstration of hundreds of thousands of Hongkongers yesterday clearly shows the public's opposition to the proposed amendments." Ortagus also called on the Hong Kong government to push for "any amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance should be pursued with great care."[71]

June 12 clashes[edit]

Protesters on Harcourt Road on 12 June 2019, adjacent to the Central Government Complex.

After the government made it clear it would press ahead with the bill, the Civil Human Rights Front vowed to continue with its protest on 12 June, the day the second reading debate resumed. Hundreds of businesses closed for the day, and numerous workers went on strike to protest against the bill. The Hong Kong Cabin Crew Federation also called a strike; HSBC, Standard Chartered and Bank of East Asia closed some central branches. Some of the banks and the Big Four accounting firms had agreed to flexible work arrangements for staff; Hong Kong Jockey Club shut down three of its central betting branches, citing employee safety.[72][73] 50 social welfare and religious groups also took part in the strike. The Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union (PTU) called on its members to attend a protest rally after school hours on that day. Student unions of several major higher education institutions including the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, City University of Hong Kong, Education University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Baptist University and Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts also called for student strike on 12 June.[74] The Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong urged the Hong Kong government and the public to show restraint, and the administration "not to rush to amend the extradition bill before fully responding to the concerns of the legal sector and the public."[75]

On 12 June, fresh round of demonstrations resumed in the morning and more people began to gathered outside the Legislative Council. Around 8 am, protesters rushed onto Harcourt Road and blocked the traffic.[76] Lung Wo Road and surrounding streets were also blocked by the protesters in a scene reminiscent of the 2014 Occupy protests. A banner written "Majority calls on Carrie Lam to step down" and "Withdraw the extradition bill, defend One Country Two Systems" was hung from the Admiralty Centre footbridge.[77] Around 11am, the Legislative Council Secretariat announced that the second debate on the extradition bill had been delayed until further notice. Around 3 pm, riot police sprayed pepper-based solution at protesters as protesters threatened to charge the Legislative Council building. Some protesters kept charging forward, the police fired tear gas, beanbag rounds and rubber bullets indiscriminately at largely peaceful protesters. Commissioner of Police Stephen Lo declared the clashes a "riot".[77] As of 6 pm, 22 injured people had been sent to public hospitals, while Legislative Council President Andrew Leung called off the meeting of the day completely.[77] Protesters were pushed away from the government headquarters, but many remained in the streets outside the AIA tower in Central, Queensway outside Pacific Place shopping mall and the junction of Arsenal Street and Hennessy Road in Wan Chai into the night. Numbers of protesters sharply dwindled after midnight and roads gradually reopened.[77] At least 79 people, aged 15 to 66, including protesters and police officers, were treated in hospitals for injuries suffered during June 12 protests.[78] Around 150 tear gas canisters, "several" rounds of rubber bullets, and 20 beanbag shots were fired during the protest clearance.[79]

Tear gas fired by the police at the protesters in Tim Mei Avenue during the June 12 protest.

U.S. President Donald Trump was impressed with the number of protesters who took to the streets of Hong Kong. "That was a million people [on 9 June]. That was as big a demonstration as I've ever seen," he said. He also expressed confidence in the matter, "I understand the reason for the demonstration, but I’m sure they will be able to work it out."[80] Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi said the extradition bill "chillingly showcases Beijing’s brazen willingness to trample over the law to silence dissent and stifle the freedoms of the people of Hong Kong." She added that, if the bill passed, Congress would have "no choice but to reassess whether Hong Kong is 'sufficiently autonomous' under the 'One Country, Two Systems' framework."[81] U.S. Representative James McGovern, a Democrat, said he and Republican co-sponsors planned to put forward legislation on Wednesday or Thursday that would likely raise the standard for determining whether Hong Kong was sufficiently autonomous to receive special treatment from the US on trade and economics under the 1992 Hong Kong Policy Act.[80]

British Prime Minister Theresa May called for the rights and freedoms set out in the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration to be respected. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt urged the Hong Kong government to "listen to the concerns of its people and its friends in the international community and to pause and reflect on these controversial measures."[80] The European Union said rights "need to be respected" in Hong Kong. "Over the past days, the people of Hong Kong have exercised their fundamental right to assemble and express themselves freely and peacefully. These rights need to be respected," the EU’s external affairs ministry statement said.[80] German Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Adebahr said that Berlin and its European Union partners had expressed their concern to Hong Kong authorities. She said "we are also examining whether the existing bilateral extradition agreement between Germany and Hong Kong could continue to be implemented in its current form if the planned extradition bill is approved."[82]

Chief Executive Carrie Lam called the protests "dangerous and life threatening acts" that had devolved into a "blatant, organised riot".[80] Beijing mouthpiece the People’s Daily published an article accusing protesters of "colluding with foreign anti-Chinese forces to manufacture social conflicts."[77] Hu Xijin, editor in chief of the Global Times, tweeted that the scenes of the protests looked like a "Colour Revolution", hinting that the West was fomenting "disturbance" in the city.[83] Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said the chaos in Admiralty was "blatant and organised." He also said "the central government strongly denounces any violent actions, and supports the special administrative region government’s effort to tackle the issue in accordance with the law."[84]

Suspension[edit]

After the intense clashes on 12 June, the Legislative Council called off the general meetings on 13 and 14 June, and also postponed the general meetings on 17 and 18 June. Pro-Beijing newspaper Sing Tao Daily reported that Lam went to meet with Chinese Vice Premier Han Zheng in Shenzhen on 14 June evening. Lam then had a cabinet meeting with her top officials at 10:30 pm, lasting until midnight.[85]

Organisers estimated nearly two million protesters took to the streets calling for the full withdrawal of the extradition bill on 16 June.

On 15 June, Carrie Lam announced a pause in the passage of the extradition bill at a press conference at the government’s headquarters. The Security Bureau would suspend the second reading of the bill and would not set a time frame on the seeking of public views.[86] However, she dodged the question if she would step down and refused to apologise.[86] The pro-democracy camp demanded a full withdrawal of the bill and said they would go ahead with the June 16 rally as planned. "Hongkongers will not fall into such a trap. Unless the extradition bill is being withdrawn one day, Hongkongers will always remember the pain," said Jimmy Sham, Convenor of the Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF).[87]

Endless waves of black was spotted from Victoria Park in Causeway Bay to the government headquarters in Admiralty from 3 pm all the way to 11 pm on 16 June. Train stations were swamped with hundreds of thousands pouring into the protest zone with those from the Kowloon side trying to join the protest waiting up to an hour at a time to board cross-harbour Star Ferry from Tsim Sha Tsui. The size of the crowd forced police to open all the six lanes of Hennessy Road. The masses then spilled over onto three parallel streets in Wan Chai, major thoroughfares Lockhart Road and Hennessy Road, and Jaffe Road.[12]

The Civil Human Rights Front announced the final turnout at "almost 2 million plus 1 citizens", denoting the protester who died of an accident at the protest scene on the day before, which set the record of the largest protest in Hong Kong history.[88][89][90][91][92] The police said that there are 338,000 at its peak, but admitted that it should be more as only those on the original route were counted.[93] The government issued a statement at 8:30 pm where Carrie Lam apologised to Hong Kong residents and promised to "sincerely and humbly accept all criticism and to improve and serve the public."[94] A government source told to the South China Morning Post that with the administration making it clear that there was no timetable to relaunch the suspended bill, the legislation would die a "natural death" when the current term of the Legislative Council ended in July next year.[95] On 18 June, Carrie Lam offered an apology for mishandling the extradition bill in person, but did not meet the protesters' demands of withdrawing the bill completely or resigning.[96]

Students unions from six universities and the Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS) warned of escalated protest action on 20 June if their four demands were not met: fully withdraw the extradition bill; retract all references to the June 12 protest being a riot; release all arrested protesters; and punish police officers who used excessive force.[97] Hong Kong Catholic Apostolic Administrator Cardinal John Tong and Hong Kong Christian Council chairman Reverend Eric So Shing-yit also issued a joint statement calling for a complete withdrawal of the extradition bill and an independent inquiry into allegations of police brutality against protesters.[97]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]