China faces showdown in Hong Kong as mass protests roar back

Bloomberg reports:

China has spent much of the past five years tightening its grip over Hong Kong with little challenge. Now, hundreds of thousands in the city are fighting back.

Hong Kong is bracing for a potentially historic showdown over extradition legislation that could for the first time subject residents to face justice in Chinese courts, further eroding the city’s autonomy. Opponents on Sunday staged one of the largest protests since the former British colony’s return to China: Organizers said more than 1 million participants showed up, while police put the figure at 240,000.

Tensions are only heating up, with demonstrators vowing to surround the city’s Legislative Council on Wednesday, when lawmakers debate scores of proposed amendments. Hong Kong’s Beijing-backed leader, Carrie Lam, defended the bill in a 45-minute news briefing Monday, saying it was necessary to prevent the city from becoming a “haven” for fugitives and vowing to press ahead with its passage. China endorsed her government’s efforts later in the day.

“The two sides seem to be on a collision course, so it is hard to see a satisfying conclusion,” said Jeffrey Wasserstrom, professor and China historian at the University of California, Irvine. “Whether or not the new law is enacted, the people of Hong Kong have made an important statement.” [Continue reading…]

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