Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam signalled Monday that her government will go ahead with proposed amendments to its extradition laws after a massive protest against them.
Lam told reporters the legislation is important and will help Hong Kong uphold justice and fulfil its international obligations. Safeguards introduced in May will ensure that the legislation protects human rights, she added.
Hundreds of thousands of people marched through central Hong Kong on Sunday in what appeared to be the territory’s largest protest in several years. It underscored fears over China’s broadening footprint in the semi-autonomous territory, which was returned to China from British rule in 1997.
The extradition bill amendments would allow Hong Kong to send people to mainland China to face charges, spurring criticism that defendants in the Chinese judicial system won’t have the same rights as they would in Hong Kong.
Opponents have contended that the proposed legislation would make Hong Kong residents vulnerable to vague national security charges and unfair trials.
Lam said Sunday’s protest demonstrates Hong Kong’s enduring commitment to its people’s freedoms. She denied that she is taking orders from China’s Communist Party-ruled central government.
“I have not received any instruction or mandate from Beijing to do this bill,” she said. “We were doing it — and we are still doing it — out of our clear conscience, and our commitment to Hong Kong.”