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Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam vows to push ahead with extradition Bill as city gears up for fresh protests, strikes

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam's defiance in the face of more mass protests underscored deep concerns across vast swaths of the Asian financial hub.PHOTO: AFP. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

HONG KONG, Jun 11, 2019, Reuters. Hong Kong geared for more protests, including strikes, transport go-slows and even picnics, against a proposed extradition law that would allow people to be sent to China for trial, even as the city’s leader vowed on Tuesday (June 11) to push ahead with the Bill, reported The Straits Times.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam’s defiant pledge in the face of more mass protests underscored deep concerns across vast swaths of the Asian financial hub two days after hundreds of thousands took to the streets to protest against the Bill.

In a rare move, prominent business leaders warned that pushing through the extradition law could undermine investor confidence in Hong Kong and erode its competitive advantages.

The extradition Bill, which has generated unusually broad opposition at home and abroad and plunged the city into political crisis, is due for a second round of debate on Wednesday in the city’s 70-seat Legislative Council (LegCo). The legislature is controlled by a pro-Beijing majority.

Riot police ringed the LegCo building early on Monday and fought back a group of several hundred protesters after an otherwise peaceful march through the city’s financial district on Sunday.

Mrs Lam warned against any similar action.

“I call on schools, parents, institutions, corporations, unions to consider seriously if they advocate these radical actions,” Mrs Lam told a news briefing.

Human rights groups have repeatedly cited the alleged use of torture, arbitrary detentions, forced confessions and problems accessing lawyers in China as reasons why the Bill should not proceed.

An online petition has called for 50,000 people to surround LegCo at 10pm on Tuesday and remain until Wednesday (June 12), when the Chinese-ruled city is expected to see mass protests and more calls for the embattled Mrs Lam to step down.

Nearly 2,000 mostly small retail shops, including restaurants, grocery, book and coffee shops, have announced plans to strike, according to an online survey, a rare move in the staunchly capitalist economy.

Some tutorial schools, small hotels, law firms, social welfare workers and nearly 4,000 teachers also said they would go on strike and rally on Wednesday.

Prominent human rights lawyer Michael Vidler said he had notified all employees that his firm supported those who wanted to act according to their consciences on Wednesday.

A staff union affiliated to a pro-democracy labour group under the New World First Bus Company called on its members to drive at the speed of 20-25 kmh. A Facebook post called on people to enjoy a picnic next to government offices on Wednesday morning, describing the area as “among the best picnic sites”. The post has attracted close to 10,000 responses from people promising to attend.

Britain handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997 under a “one-country, two-systems” formula, with guarantees that its autonomy and freedoms, including an independent justice system, would be protected.

However, many accuse China of extensive meddling, denying democratic reforms and squeezing freedoms, interfering with local elections and the disappearance of five Hong Kong-based booksellers, starting in 2015, who specialised in works critical of Chinese leaders.

Prominent business figures urged the government to tread cautiously to protect Hong Kong’s competitiveness. “The integrity and independence of (Hong Kong’s) legal system are absolutely central to Hong Kong’s future,” said Mr Fred Hu, founder and chairman of China-based private equity firm Primavera Capital Group.

“Any missteps could be extremely costly, undermining the confidence of global investors and eroding Hong Kong’s competitive advantages.”

On Tuesday, the Singapore Consulate-General in Hong Kong posted a notice on its website, advising Singaporeans in Hong Kong to avoid travelling to Admiralty and Wanchai, areas with large crowds, and mass gatherings in the coming days.

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