Hong Kong’s city legislature has postponed debating a controversial extradition bill after thousands of protesters blocked entry to a government building Wednesday out concern the measure would allow Beijing to exert greater authority over the semiautonomous territory.
The crowd of mostly young demonstrators filled nearby streets, overturned barriers and tussled with police outside the government headquarters and offices of the Legislative Council.
Several protestors cited by The Associated Press said they hoped the action would persuade the government to shelve the proposed amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance.
“We won’t leave till they scrap the law,” said one protester cited by Reuters.
“The President of the Legislative Council has directed that the council meeting of June 12 scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. today be changed to a later time to be determined by him,” the council said in a statement. “Members will be notified of the time of the meeting later.”
Staff members were advised not to go into work and those already on the premises were told to “stay at their working place until further notice.”
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, many regard China’s ruling Communist Party as having reneged on that agreement by forcing through unpopular legal changes.
Despite overwhelming opposition, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam defended the legislation as necessary to close legal loopholes with other countries and territories, Reuters reported. A vote was scheduled on June 20.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.