Hundreds of thousands of protesters flooded the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday to demonstrate against proposed amendments to an extradition bill, which would allow the transfer of those accused of crimes to mainland China.
The massive demonstration took place just three days before Hong Kong’s full legislature considers the bill, which critics fear would let China target political opponents in the former British colony and could undermine its judicial independence.
The Sunday protest was one of the biggest in recent Hong Kong history. Police estimated the crowd at 240,000; organizers said it was closer to 1 million.
After around 10 hours of peaceful protest, tensions rose when a group of protesters stormed the barriers at the government headquarters. The group briefly made it to the lobby, but police responded with batons and pepper spray.
Here’s a closer look:
Why is the bill controversial?
Hong Kong was a British colony until 1997 when it was handed over to China as a territory. However, the city is still semi-autonomous, retaining its own political, social and legal systems as part of the “one country, two systems” agreement.
Opponents say the extradition bill will allow China to increase control over Hong Kong’s legal system and will target political dissidents, who critics fear could then face unfair trials. Proponents, namely the city’s government, say the revised bill will help fight crime and maintain order.
Hong Kong currently limits extraditions to jurisdictions with which it has prior agreements with, or on a case-by-case basis. China was excluded because of concerns over its troubled history with legal independence and human rights.
The amendments would allow Hong Kong courts to extradite people to jurisdictions even lacking this prior agreement. Despite widespread opposition, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam has championed the legislation.