Hong Kong may pause controversial extradition bill after mass protests

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Pro-democracy lawmaker Alvin Yeung told CNN that an announcement would likely come between 2 p.m and 3 p.m., local time Saturday.

According to Yeung, Chief Executive Carrie Lam is expected to use the phrase “postpone.” The pro-democracy camp, of which Yeung is a member, understands there currently is no timetable in place for the resumption of talks on the bill.

A senior pro-Beijing lawmaker confirmed to CNN that Lam would announce a delay of the bill, but said it was not being shelved.

News of the impending announcement comes as multiple local media outlets reported Saturday morning that Lam was preparing to hit pause on the bill, halting its progress ahead of further consultation, in what would likely be perceived as a win for protesters and opposition groups.

Lam was holding an urgent meeting with pro-government legislators ahead of her announcement, lawmaker Priscilla Cheung confirmed to CNN.

Pausing the bill will raise questions over Lam’s future. Before she became Chief Executive in 2017, Lam said she would resign “if mainstream opinion makes me no longer able to continue the job.”

Mass protests

The expected announcement follows violent clashes between police and protesters Wednesday, after tens of thousands of mostly young people surrounded the city’s government headquarters, forcing legislators to postpone a debate on the bill.

They were just the latest in a series of public protests against the bill, which critics fear could be used to extradite residents to mainland China for political or inadvertent business offenses.

On June 9, more than one million people took to the streets in a peaceful march against the legislation, about one in seven of the city’s population — a potential repeat of that demonstration is planned for this Sunday.

A spokesman for the Civil Human Rights Front confirmed to CNN that the march would go ahead despite news the bill may be paused. In a statement, the Democratic Party said the march would start at 2:30pm local time Sunday in Victoria Park. Protesters will wear black and demand the bill be completely withdrawn and Lam step down.

Legal concerns

Although Hong Kong is part of China, it has a different legal system — a concept known as “one country, two systems.”
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Pro-democracy figures said that the bill, championed by the pro-Beijing Lam government, would lead to the erosion of civil rights in Hong Kong, including freedom of speech and rule of law.

“We are afraid that we will become a mainland city,” lawmaker Fernando Cheung said Thursday. “We would no longer have rule of law, our own autonomy.”

Chief Executive Carrie Lam has said the bill was necessary to ensure that Hong Kong wouldn’t become a sanctuary for fugitives running from justice in mainland China.

Hong Kong’s legislative council is due to go on summer recess on July 20, before beginning again in October.

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