Hong Kong pressing forward with extradition bill despite massive protests

Hong Kong is pressing forward with a law that would allow criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China despite massive protests, the semi-autonomous region's leader said Monday.

“I don’t think it is [an] appropriate decision for us now to pull out of this bill because of the very important objectives that this bill is intended to achieve,” Chief Executive Carrie Lam told reporters while flanked by security and justice chiefs, according to Reuters.

“While we will continue to do the communication and explanation there is very little merit to be gained to delay the bill. It will just cause more anxiety and divisiveness in society.”

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On Sunday, Hong Kong experienced likely its largest protest since its handover from British to Chinese rule in 1997.

Organizers estimated around 1 million people participated in the seven-hour march, while a police spokesperson estimated a peak of about 240,000 people.

The extradition measure, which has sparked worries about mainland China’s broadening influence in Hong Kong, is scheduled to be debated in the region’s Legislative Council Wednesday and could officially become law by the end of the month.

The bill has sparked international concerns, with European and U.S. government officials and human rights groups expressing reservations it could hurt rule of law in the city, which was transferred to Chinese rule with the guarantee that it would have a legal system independent of Beijing.