Undeterred by Sunday’s massive protest against planned changes to the extradition law, the government said the second reading debate on the Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019 will take place on June 12 as scheduled.
In an announcement late in the night, authorities made it clear that they will press ahead with the legislation, which will allow criminal suspects to be transferred to various jurisdictions including mainland China, for trials, despite strong opposition in society.
The unshaken stance came after hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to express their anger over bill, amid fears that the proposed new rules could be misused by China to target its opponents.
Sunday’s rally, the third of its kind since March 31, drew the participation of about 1.03 million citizens, according to the organizer Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF).
The police, however, dismissed the turnout claim, saying it estimates the crowd was only 240,000 at its peak, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Calling the protest march generally peaceful and orderly, the government said it acknowledges and respects the fact that people have different views on a wide range of issues.
Authorities will continue to engage with society, listen to different views and try to allay concerns through calm and rational discussions, it said.
A government spokesman stressed that additional safeguards have been provided to the bill and they have been welcomed by stakeholders and have effectively allayed most of the earlier concerns.
In other comments, the government said the procession Sunday was an example of Hong Kong people exercising their freedom of expression within their rights as enshrined in the Basic Law and the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance.
The extradition bill is firmly grounded in the rule of law, and the government urges the Legco to scrutinize it in a calm, reasonable and respectful manner to help ensure Hong Kong remains a safe city for residents and businesses, the spokesman said.
Chief executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor attended three separate public events on Sunday, but she refused to answer questions on the latest protest march over extradition laws.
At one event, in Sai Kung, district councilor Christine Fong presented Lam with a petition calling on the chief executive to stop rushing the controversial bill through the Legislative Council.
In a press conference at 11 am on Monday, Lam reiterated that the government has heard various views in relation to the bill, listening to supporters as well as those opposing the planned changes.
Responding to a question, the chief executive said she will not step down from her post despite the massive anti-government demonstration.
A “stable team” is needed to continue the administration’s work, Lam added.
In the wee hours of Monday, lawmakers from the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong, and Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions issued separate statements to express their support for revising the extradition law.
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