Hong Kong put under pressure with controversial extradition project

Hong Kong was under increasing international pressure on Thursday because of a controversial extradition bill that plunged the former British colony into its worst political violence since its handover to China in 1997.

Police used rubber bullets and tear gas on Wednesday to disperse the crowds on the streets demanding that the government renounce its draft law to allow extradition to mainland China.

Blocking the main arteries in the heart of this hotbed of global finance, the protesters paralyzed the traffic and launched various projectiles on the police, including iron bars and cobblestones. They also tried to break into the LegCo, which had to abandon the bill at second reading.

This mobilization echoed the huge prodemocracy movement of the fall of 2014 that had paralyzed entire neighborhoods of the megacity for more than two months. The protesters demanding the election of the local chief of government by universal suffrage had not ripped off any concession in Beijing.

The text provokes criticism from Western countries as well as the outcry of Hong Kongers who fear an opaque and politicized Chinese justice, and think that this reform will damage the international image and the attractiveness of the semi-autonomous territory.

The European Union has just added its voice to this concert of concerns.

She "shares several concerns raised by the citizens of Hong Kong" and demands that the protesters' rights be "respected".

- "Organized riots" -

The text has "considerable potential consequences for Hong Kong and its people, for European and foreign citizens, as well as for business confidence in Hong Kong," warned the EU.

The rule of law and the judicial system inherited from the British colonizer are a key factor in the economic success of the financial center, where the stock market opened up again Thursday after a sharp decline.

The territory of seven million people had already been the scene Sunday of the largest event ever organized since 1997, it has gathered according to the organizers a million people.

In spite of this exceptional mobilization, the Hong Kong authorities refuse to turn down and withdraw their text, even if we do not know for the moment when could resume the debates in the LegCo.

The head of the local executive, Carrie Lam has denounced "organized riots". "Riots that touch a peaceful society by ignoring law and discipline are unacceptable to any civilized society."

The violence left 79 wounded, two of them in serious condition.

"In terms of political violence, this is the worst day since the handover," said political analyst Dixon Sing, highlighting the unprecedented weapons used by the police and the determination of the protesters.

Opposition to the project brings together a broad spectrum of lawyers, influential legal organizations, captains of industry, chambers of commerce, journalists, Western militants and diplomats.

- Find a solution? -

According to the authorities, the text aims to fill a legal vacuum and prevent the city from being a refuge for certain criminals. They ensure that safeguards exist for freedom of expression and that the law will not target political opponents of China.

But opponents fear that people will be trapped by Chinese justice, whether they are Hong Kong residents or those who are just passing through its airport.

The international community is worried. British Prime Minister Theresa May has deemed it "vital" that the bill does not encroach on the provisions of the agreement that led to the handover. London is concerned "by the potential effects of these proposals, especially given the large number of British citizens living in Hong Kong," she said.

Under this agreement with London, Hong Kong enjoys semi-autonomy and freedoms that do not exist in mainland China and, in theory, until 2047. The system "One country, two systems" provides in particular freedom of expression and the independence of justice.

US President Donald Trump hoped that the protesters would find "a solution with Beijing."

"I understand the reasons for these demonstrations, but I am sure they will find a solution, I hope they will be able to find a solution with China."

After forcibly evacuating the streets on Wednesday, police appeared determined to maintain control of the semi-autonomous region.

The authorities on Thursday closed several lanes and a metro station near the headquarters of organs of power. A luxurious shopping center nearby was also closed.

Source: Seychelles News Agency