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Protests draw huge crowds in Hong Kong

Legislation suspended but protests continue

by Kathy Melvin | Presbyterian News Service

A June 9 protest over a proposed law that would allow the Hong Kong government to send people charged of certain crimes to China for prosecution drew this large crowd. (Photo by Bruce Van Voorhis)

LOUISVILLE — Organizers say nearly two million people have participated in protests in Hong Kong against a controversial extradition bill. Even though Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam publicly apologized Saturday and suspended any action on the legislation, protests continued Sunday.

Opposition leaders have pledged to keep protesting until the government withdraws the legislation completely.

At issue is a proposed law that would allow the Hong Kong government to send persons charged with certain crimes to mainland China for prosecution. The ongoing conflict grew out of an incident over a Hong Kong citizen who is accused of murdering his girlfriend while in Taiwan. He came back to Hong Kong and there is no method to have him extradited to Taiwan since there is no agreement between the two places.

In response, the Hong Kong government proposed to amend its Fugitive Offenders Ordinance to allow extradition even to places with which they have no legal agreement. Mission co-worker the Rev. Judy Chan said Taiwan did not request the proposed solution and is not in support of the amendment.

“For Hong Kongers, of course this raises great concerns about human rights and a fair trial,” she said. “The legal system in Hong Kong is based on the British system and at least until 2047, we thought we had a guarantee that it would not change. Thus, the possibility that someone in Hong Kong could be sent to China for prosecution is alarming, from what we know of the Chinese legal system.”

As a result, “many citizens and sectors of society have come out in opposition, besides the young people — lawyers, social workers, teachers and businesses,” she said. “Many people felt that passing this amendment quickly would bring international condemnation as well as lead to devastating consequences for the city.”

The situation caused the Hong Kong Christian Council to issue an urgent appeal on June 12 signed by its chairperson, the Rev. Dr. Eric S.Y. So:

The society is full of disputes and disturbance due to the Amendment of the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance. Today, the demonstrators blocked the roads near the Central Government Offices and Legislative Council and confronted the law enforcement officers. Under such critical situation, and for the benefit of Hong Kong citizens, the Hong Kong Christian Council held an emergency meeting with several representatives of various denominations and church bodies to share and discuss together. We then issued the following urgent appeal:

  1. We request a prompt appointment with Mrs. Carrie Lam, the Chief Executive, and Hon. Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen, Chairperson of the Legislative Council. We hope that they may meet with representatives of the Protestant Church and Catholic Church and, before the situation is out of our control, hear the voices and concerns of the clergy and the appeals we collected from the people.
  2. The Government should consider carefully that, if the Amendment of the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance is passed, it would worsen the splits in the society for a long time and eventually will trigger a new round of conflict. Thus, we hope that the Hong Kong SAR Government can suspend the amendment and give the society more time in order that the tension can be resolved with rational discussion.
  3. We appeal to all clergy in the demonstration area to pay attention to changes in the situation and to show concern with pastoral care for the demonstrators. They should also try to stop any violence that is happening and to protect the safety of all participants as well as themselves.

Chan too is asking for prayers. “Please pray for Hong Kong in this critical moment that the situation will not escalate to violence between protesters and police, that the government give some cooling off period, and that the church can stand strong to serve the community and the nation in the peace of Christ,” she said.

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