Hong Kong Braces for More Extradition Protests Express News

HONG KONG — Protesters in Hong Kong, angered by the government’s refusal to back down on a contentious bill that would allow extraditions to mainland China, gathered near government offices again Tuesday and planned more action this week as lawmakers resume debate on the legislation.

Lawmakers are likely to vote on the bill by the end of next week, the head of Hong Kong’s legislature said, despite mass protests over the weekend opposing the legislation and demanding that it be delayed.

The schedule, announced Tuesday by the president of the Legislative Council, Andrew Leung, was set to further inflame tensions in Hong Kong, a semiautonomous Chinese territory, after hundreds of thousands of people turned out on Sunday for one of the largest protests in the city’s recent history.

The demonstration on Sunday was largely peaceful, though some protesters clashed with police officers in the early hours of Monday. On Tuesday, the city’s police force said members of the public should express their demands peacefully. The South China Morning Post, a local newspaper, reported that thousands of additional officers had been mobilized.

At a briefing with reporters, police officials said they were prepared to deal with unrest. “The force will not tolerate any kind of violence or the incitement of the use of violence,” said Kong Wing-cheung, a police spokesman.

On Tuesday night, several hundred people streamed into areas near the Legislative Council and government offices, with many of them huddled across the street, blocked by steel barricades. Half a dozen police vans with flashing red lights parked near the protesters and riot police officers with helmets, batons and shields stood nearby.

Other protesters gathered on a landscaped pedestrian bridge and a waterfront and sang hymns and joined in prayers led by representatives of religious groups. “We may be losing something precious,” Yip Po Lam, a Catholic priest, told the protesters. “But I hope we will not leave behind our values and our persistence.”

[Why are people protesting in Hong Kong? Catch up here.]

Mr. Leung, the president of the legislature, said he expected the bill to go to a vote on June 20 after a total of more than 60 hours of debate, adding that “the case is pressing and has to be handled as soon as possible.” The measure is likely to pass in the local legislature, where pro-Beijing lawmakers hold 43 of 70 seats.

Opposition lawmakers had expected the vote to take place around the end of the month, based on a regular schedule of meetings. Mr. Leung’s decision to add more sessions in the coming days in order to bring the date of the vote forward quickly drew criticism.

Billy Li, a barrister and representative of the Progressive Lawyers Group, said he was angered by the decision to accelerate the vote after what he described as a record-breaking demonstration on Sunday.

“The Legislative Council, as a body that regulates the government, not only failed to respond to the dissenting voices of the people but rather accelerated the situation,” Mr. Li said. “It is not willing to allow the people to understand the case but is hastily forcing the public to accept it.”

The demonstrations on Wednesday were expected to be smaller than the march held on Sunday, in which up to a million people, or one-seventh of the territory’s population, paraded through the city in an overwhelmingly peaceful protest.

By Tuesday afternoon, labor groups, businesses and student organizations across the city had announced plans to demonstrate their opposition to the extradition bill. Small businesses, including restaurants and bookstores, said they would close their doors; high school students and as many as 4,000 of their teachers planned a walkout; and a union for bus drivers urged members to drive well below the speed limit.

The Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong called the situation “extremely turbulent” and urged the government not to hurriedly pass the extradition bill “before adequately addressing the queries and worries of the legal sector and of the general public.”

An online petition called for 50,000 people to protest outside the Legislative Council on Wednesday, as the legislature prepared for its second debate on the proposed law. On Tuesday, the council said it would restrict access to a nearby area that is typically reserved for demonstrations.

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