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Protests wrack Hong Kong over China extradition move

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Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam has apologised to its people as an estimated 1 million-plus black-clad protesters insisted she resign over her handling of a bill that would allow citizens to be sent to mainland China for trial.

 

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Organisers said almost two million turned out on Sunday to demand chief executive Lam step down, in what is becoming the most significant challenge to China’s relationship with the territory since it was handed back by Britain 22 years ago.

The demonstration came in spite of Lam indefinitely delaying – though not withdrawing – the bill on Saturday, in a dramatic climbdown that threw into question her ability to continue to lead the city.

On Sunday Lam apologised for the way the government had handled the draft law, which had been scheduled for debate last Wednesday.

She gave no further insight into its fate.

Organisers pressed ahead with the protest to demand the bill’s full withdrawal, as well as to mark their anger at the way police handled a demonstration against it on Wednesday, when more than 70 people were injured by rubber bullets and tear gas.

Some of Sunday’s marchers held signs saying “Do not shoot, we are HongKonger”.

Police said the demonstration reached 338,000 at its peak.

Organisers and police have routinely produced vastly different estimates at recent demonstrations.

Organisers estimated a protest the week before drew one million while police said 240,000.

“It’s much bigger today. Many more people,” said one protester, who gave her name as Ms Wong.

“I came today because of what happened on Wednesday, with the police violence.”

Loud cheers rang out when activists called through loudspeakers for Lam’s resignation and the cry “step down” echoed through the streets.

“(An) apology is not enough,” said demonstrator Victor Li, 19.

The protests have plunged Hong Kong into political crisis, heaping pressure on Lam’s administration and her official backers in Beijing.

Critics say the planned extradition law could threaten Hong Kong’s rule of law and its international reputation as an Asian financial hub.

Some Hong Kong tycoons have already started moving personal wealth offshore.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said President Trump would raise the issue of Hong Kong human rights at a potential meeting with president Xi Jinping at the G20 summit in Japan this month.

In a blog post published on Sunday, Hong Kong Financial Secretary Paul Chan sought to play down the impact of the protests.

“Even if the external environment continues to be unclear and the social atmosphere is tense recently, overall Hong Kong’s economic and financial markets are still operating in a stable and orderly manner,” he wrote.

-AAP

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