Millions of people around the world are protesting new proposed agreements in Hong Kong that would allow the government to extradite people to mainland China.
A peaceful demonstration in Hong Kong on Sunday turned violent when a small, hardcore group of protesters who had stayed behind at legislature buildings clashed with police.
But the implications of the extradition bill resonate around the world, as similar marches and demonstrations against the proposed legislation took place in other countries, including Canada and Australia.
In Vancouver, more than 100 people marched on the Chinese consulate on Sunday. In Sydney, Australia, more than 1,000 people came out to urge their government to denounce the bill.
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said she was worried about the safety of Canadians in Hong Kong in a joint statement with Britain’s Jeremy Hunt.
“We are concerned about the potential effect of these proposals on the large number of U.K. and Canadian citizens in Hong Kong, on business confidence and on Hong Kong’s international reputation,” they said in a joint statement.
Here’s what you need to know about the bill:
What does it do?
The bill would allow the extradition of people suspected of an offence punishable by a sentence of more than seven years to mainland China to face trial.
It’s the first time a law like this has been proposed.
The creators of the bill say it’s important for public safety and to make sure the city does not become a refuge for criminals.
The proposed changes allow for case-by-case extraditions to jurisdictions, including mainland China, beyond the 20 states with which Hong Kong already has treaties.
It gives the chief executive of Hong Kong — a.k.a. the head of the government of Hong Kong — the power to approve an extradition after it has been cleared by Hong Kong’s courts and appeal system.
Why are people protesting?
Critics say the bill erodes Hong Kong’s judicial independence by making it easier to send suspects to China, where they can face vague charges and harsh sentences.
Chinese expats say they will live in fear of being seized in Hong Kong as they travel through the region.
While that may seem like a rare circumstance, it’s not unheard of. Chinese tech exec Meng Wanzhou was detained by Canadian authorities at the request of U.S. officials on a provisional arrest warrant while her flight was transiting through Vancouver.
Another aspect of the protests is the way in which the bill is moving through the legislature.
The Hong Kong government plans to bypass the committee process and bring the bill directly to the full legislature, with plans to pass it by the end of June.
Human rights aspects and brief historical context
Hong Kong is an autonomous region in China. It was formerly a British colony.
Britain handed Hong Kong back to China under a “one country, two systems” formula with guarantees that its autonomy and freedoms, including an independent justice system, would be protected.
Hong Kong residents also have certain civil rights that are different from mainland Chinese, including a higher degree of freedom of expression and assembly.
There have also been longstanding concerns about China’s legal system that would make it difficult to guarantee a fair trial.
Protesters said on Sunday that they do not trust that China would not use the law to extradite political and religious prisoners.
“Our major concerns regarding this bill include possible political persecution and human rights violations and even threats to personal safety if detained by China,” Australian protest organizer Jared Fu said on Sunday.
—With files from Reuters
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