Hundreds of thousands of protestors have taken to the streets of Hong Kong in a final bid to block a law it is feared could be used by China to make critics “disappear”.
The mass rally is being held to demonstrate against the controversial extradition bill, which would allow suspected criminals in the territory to be sent to the mainland to face trial.
In soaring temperatures marchers of all ages and backgrounds chanted “no China extradition, no evil law”, while some also demanded the resignation of Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam.
Ms Lam has made minor changes to the bill, which could become law by the end of June, but has refused to scrap it arguing it is needed to plug a long-standing “loophole”.
School teacher Garry Chiu, who was at the protest with his wife and one-year-old daughter, said: “It is no longer about me. I need to save my daughter.
“If the law is implemented anyone can disappear from Hong Kong.
“No one will get justice in China. We know there is no human rights.”
Kelvin Tam, a student in London, said: “It will remove the firewall of Hong Kong judicial independence.”
Police have detained a number of protesters.
The former British colony was handed back to Chinese rule in 1997 with guarantees of autonomy and freedoms, including a separate legal system.
The last British governor Chris Patten, now Lord Patten, said the move would “strike a terrible blow … against the rule of law, against Hong Kong’s stability and security, against Hong Kong’s position as a great international trading hub”.
Opponents have challenged the fairness and transparency of the Chinese justice system and worry about security forces fabricating trumped up charges.
Several senior Hong Kong judges have also raised concerns about the changes, highlighting a lack of trust in the mainland courts as well as the limited nature of extradition hearings.
Human rights groups have repeatedly expressed anxiety about the use of torture, arbitrary detentions, forced confessions and problems accessing lawyers in China.
Hong Kong officials have defended the plan arguing there are adequate safeguards and insisting no-one would be extradited if they face political or religious persecution or torture, or the death penalty.
“We continue to listen to a wide cross-section of views and opinions and remain to open to suggestions on ways to improve the new regime,” a government official said.