Mass protests continued in Hong Kong on Tuesday night and into Wednesday afternoon as the government of the territory considers a controversial bill, which would allow for the extradition of Hong Kong residents to mainland China.
The bill was set to be debated by Hong Kong’s Legislative Council on Wednesday, though the council’s president Andrew Leung said the meeting would be delayed to a later time, as protesters blocked key roads leading to the building, Bloomberg said.
The bill would allow Hong Kong residents to be extradited to mainland China for trial, and it came about after a 19-year-old Hong Kong resident allegedly murdered his pregnant girlfriend while on holiday in Taiwan last year, the BBC said. The man fled back to Hong Kong but could not be tried in Taiwan as an extradition treaty between the territories does not currently exist.
Critics say the bill would subject Hong Kong residents to unfair trials in China and would encourage China’s encroachment on the semi-autonomous region, which was allowed to keep its independent legal system after being handed back by the British in 1997.
Hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets beginning on Sunday in one of the largest protests the country has seen in years.
Protests continued into the week. Scores of protesters camped overnight in Tamar Park on Tuesday, and on Wednesday they blocked major roads leading to the legislature, South China Morning Post said. By the afternoon, the protest ballooned into the financial district.
Hong Kong Police Force encouraged protesters to dissipate and said that they would use force against if necessary. Pepper spray was used by police on some protesters, Bloomberg reported.
Despite backlash, Hong Kong leaders have still signaled that they plan to pass the bill. Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam has said the bill will help maintain justice in the region, and proposed amendments address human rights concerns.
On Tuesday night local time, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi released a statement standing with the protesters.
“The extradition bill imperils the strong U.S.-Hong Kong relationship that has flourished for two decades,” the statement said. “If it passes, the Congress has no choice but to reassess whether Hong Kong is ‘sufficiently autonomous’ under the ‘one country, two systems’ framework.”
“The House stands united with Senator McConnell, the Administration and all who have denounced this dangerous extradition legislation,” Pelosi’s statement continued. “America stands with the people of Hong Kong.”