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“Corporate lawyers and university students, housewives and religious leaders, migrant workers and artists — a cross-section of society rose up Sunday in one of the largest demonstrations in Hong Kong’s history to protest a proposed extradition law that many fear would finally break the dam holding back China’s surging influence over the political haven.
Despite sweltering heat and storm clouds gathering overhead, several hundred thousand people turned out for Sunday’s march in defiant scenes reminiscent of the Occupy Central movement in 2014 and a mass rally in 2003 that effectively shelved a controversial sedition law backed by Beijing. Many said they were joining a demonstration for the first time because they viewed it as a last chance to voice their outrage as Hong Kong’s political freedoms shrivel.
Shortly after midnight, when the government permit for the demonstration expired, clashes broke out between police and hundreds of protesters at Hong Kong’s legislative building. Police in riot gear charged in with shields and fired pepper spray to disperse the crowd.
Legislators in Hong Kong — which was promised semiautonomy by the Chinese government under a 1997 handover agreement with Britain — are expected to vote this month on a bill that would allow local courts to consider extradition requests from countries including mainland China.
Critics of the bill, including many members of the city’s legal and judicial community, say the measure is being rushed through Hong Kong’s legislative process. They say it would give Chinese authorities the power to extradite political opponents without local legislative oversight.”
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