HONG KONG – Hong Kong delayed a legislative session on a contentious extradition bill as thousands of protesters amassed to block entry to the building Wednesday out of concern the measure signaled greater Chinese control and further erosion of civil liberties in the semiautonomous territory.
The overwhelmingly young crowd of demonstrators filled nearby streets and tussled with police outside the government headquarters and offices of the Legislative Council.
A statement from the government’s press service said the session of the Hong Kong’s Legislative Council that was scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. would be “changed to a later time to be determined” by the council secretariat.
A protester who gave only his first name, Marco, said he hoped the action would persuade Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s administration to shelve the proposed amendments. “We want the government to just set the legislation aside and not bring it back,” he said.
A fellow protester who gave her name as King said the protest was a watershed moment for Hong Kong’s young generation. “We have to stand up for our rights or they will be taken away,” she said.
Under its “one country, two systems” framework, Hong Kong was supposed to be guaranteed the right to retain its own social, legal and political systems for 50 years following its handover from British rule in 1997. However, China’s ruling Communist Party has been seen as increasingly reneging on that agreement by forcing through unpopular legal changes.
The government pushed ahead with plans to present the amendments to the legislature on Wednesday despite a weekend protest by hundreds of thousands of people that was the territory’s largest political demonstration in more than a decade.