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Hong Kong extradition mass demo draws half a million

Great white hope:
An estimated
500,000 protesters,
mainly dressed in
white, marched in
Hong Kong PICTURE: AFP/GETTY

A SEA of protesters marched through central Hong Kong yesterday to demonstrate against legislation that would allow suspected criminals to be extradited to mainland China to face trial.

The massive crowd — estimated at up to 500,000 — took to the streets three days before Hong Kong’s government plans to bring the bill to the full legislature in a bid to pass it by the end of this month. Many people dressed in white to symbolise ‘lightness and justice’.

Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, has pushed the change despite widespread criticism from human rights and business groups. Critics say China’s legal system would not guarantee the same rights to defendants as in Hong Kong.

‘What can we do to get Carrie Lam to listen to us? How many people have to come out to make her reconsider?’ said Miu Wong, 24, an office worker.

The former British colony was returned to China in 1997 but retained the right to its own social, legal and political systems for 50 years. Lam’s government says change is needed to close legal loopholes. Opponents say it allows China to reduce Hong Kong’s legal independence after China’s ruling Communist Party has been seen to have forced unpopular legal changes.

China has been excluded from Hong Kong extradition agreements due to concerns over its poor record on legal independence and human rights. In recent years, mainland authorities have accused opponents of dubious crimes such as tax evasion.