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Hong Kong leader refuses to scrap extradition bill despite rally
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Hong Kong leader refuses to scrap extradition bill despite rally

HONG KONG, China, June 11 ------ Hong Kong's pro-Beijing leader on Monday refused to scrap a controversial plan to allow extraditions to the Chinese mainland, a day after record crowds came out to oppose the proposal. Striking a defiant tone after the city's largest protest since the 1997 handover, chief executive Carrie Lam said the legislature would debate the bill on Wednesday as planned, rejecting calls to delay or withdraw the law.

The decision sets her administration on a collision course with opponents who decried her stance and called on supporters to rally outside parliament on Wednesday or hold strikes.  "She's really pushing Hong Kong towards the brink of a precipice," pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo told reporters. Sunday saw huge crowds march in blazing summer heat through the streets of the financial hub's main island in a noisy, colourful demonstration calling on the government to scrap its planned extradition law.

In her first comments since the mass rallies, Lam pushed back against calls to delay the law and said the huge rallies were proof Hong Kong's freedom of speech was still protected She said her administration had already made major concessions to ensure political cases would not be considered and that human rights safeguards met international standards. "We have been listening and listening very attentively," she said. But her words drew an incredulous response from opponents who accused her of ignoring massive public opposition.

"Yesterday 1.03 million of us marched and the government is still indifferent, turning a deaf ear to the people. This government has become a dictatorship," lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen told reporters Political analyst Dixon Sing warned Lam could be facing "political suicide" if she pushed for a showdown after such huge demonstrations.  "In the short run, the Hong Kong government led by Carrie Lam will suffer a worsening legitimacy crisis," he told AFP. "Fewer and fewer people will trust her and the entire cabinet." But he said much would rest on whether the public comes out to back further protests or strikes.

Sunday's huge rally passed without incident until shortly after midnight when small pockets of protesters fought running battles with police in chaotic and violent scenes. Hong Kong police chief Stephen Lo blamed masked demonstrators for trying to "storm" the parliament and vowed to pursue those who were involved. There was a heavy police presence outside parliament on Monday as officials moved twisted remains of barricades and debris left by the skirmishes the night before.

Source: philstar.com