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Tuesday February 25th, 2020 4:33AM

The Latest: Legal group urges Hong Kong to withdraw bill

By The Associated Press
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HONG KONG (AP) — Latest on the protests in Hong Kong over proposed extradition legislation (all times local):

8 p.m.

Hong Kong's legal community is urging the city's leader to withdraw a controversial bill that would allow suspects to be extradited to mainland China.

The Hong Kong Bar Association also said Wednesday it wants to know what the government's view is on principles underpinning the "surrender of fugitives" to the mainland following a New Zealand court case that stopped a man accused of killing a woman in Shanghai from being sent to China.

New Zealand doesn't have a formal extradition agreement with China and the case is considered an important precedent for Hong Kong, with which it shares a common law system from its roots as a British colony.

The association urged the government to "withdraw the bill for a full and proper consultation."

In a letter addressed to Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, Chairman Philip Dykes said the group wants to know whether the government took into account the human rights situation in mainland China before seeking assurances from Beijing on the matter.

A day of sit-ins and clashes between protesters and police on Wednesday marked a major escalation in the semi-autonomous city's biggest political crisis in years.

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7:40 p.m.

Britain's foreign secretary has appealed for calm in Hong Kong and urged authorities there to listen to the concerns of protesters.

Jeremy Hunt says large protests Wednesday and in recent days show "a clear sign of significant public concern" about a contentious extradition bill, which has become a lightning rod for worries about the erosion of civil liberties in the semiautonomous Chinese territory.

Hunt urged the Hong Kong government "to pause and reflect on these controversial measures."

He says upholding the principle of "one country, two systems," as set out in the legally binding Sino-British Joint Declaration under which Britain returned Hong Kong to China, "is vital to Hong Kong's future success."

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7:30 p.m.

The head of Hong Kong's Legislative Council has announced that a meeting delayed by protests against proposed extradition legislation has been postponed until further notice.

Thousands of protesters blocked entry to Hong Kong's government headquarters on Wednesday, delaying a hearing on a proposed extradition bill that has become a lightning rod for concerns over greater Chinese control and erosion of civil liberties in the territory.

A notice posted on the Hong Kong government's website Wednesday evening said an announcement would be made about when the session would be convened "once the president determines the time of the meeting."

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Tourism Board said it has canceled a Dragon Boat Carnival planned for the nearby Central Harbourfront on Friday through Sunday.

It said the decision was made after "careful consideration" of the situation in the area.

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6:20 p.m.

China has repeated its support for Hong Kong's proposed extradition legislation, which has caused massive protests in the semiautonomous territory.

Appearing to reference the unrest, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang says "any act that undermines Hong Kong's prosperity and stability is opposed by mainstream public opinion in Hong Kong."

He also denied at his regular briefing Wednesday that China has been interfering in the city's affairs in a way that violates agreements made when Hong Kong was handed back to China from British control.

He said: "Hong Kong people's rights and freedoms have been fully guaranteed in accordance with law."

The protests have forced the delay of legislative debate over the bill, which would allow criminal suspects in Hong Kong to be sent for trial in mainland China.

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5:50 p.m.

Hong Kong's police commissioner says the scene around the city's government headquarters was "chaotic" and is appealing for protesters to leave the area.

Commissioner Stephen Lo Wai-chung told reporters Wednesday that officers used batons, pepper spray, beanbag rounds, rubber bullets, water hoses and tear gas against the demonstrators.

He said police took action after a large group of masked protesters charged onto the roads surrounding the complex in Hong Kong's Admiralty district and started throwing objects including metal barriers at officers. He called the situation a riot.

Lo said: "This is very dangerous action that could kill someone."

He said several people including some officers had been injured.

Thousands of protesters have descended on the area to try to prevent Hong Kong's Beijing-backed government from pushing through deeply unpopular extradition bill.

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5 p.m.

Hong Kong police have been searching some protesters and their bags as the leave the scene of massive protests against widely unpopular extradition legislation.

Scores of protesters were leaving the area Wednesday, some with their hands held high, after police shot tear gas around the besieged city government headquarters near the waterfront.

Protesters threw rocks, bottles, metal barricades and other projectiles at police.

Livestreamed reports from local television stations showed protesters who remained at the scene putting plastic wrap around their arms, wetting face masks and tightening goggles they were using to protect themselves from tear gas and pepper spray.

The protesters are opposed to a bill that has become a lightning rod for concerns over greater Chinese control and erosion of civil liberties in the semiautonomous territory.

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4:30 p.m.

Police equipped with riot shields have pushed back against protesters attempting to storm past barricades to get into Hong Kong's government headquarters.

Protesters scattered from some areas, using umbrellas to fend off pepper spray, tear gas and compressed water deployed by police trying to protect the besieged government building.

Livestreamed reports from local television stations showed demonstrators overturning metal canopies and throwing objects as police cleared some streets that had been jammed with thousands of people hours before.

Some police carried compressed air-powered rifles that appeared to be equipped to fire non-lethal projectiles. It was unclear if they were shooting them.

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3:50 p.m.

Hong Kong police have used tear gas, pepper spray and high-pressure water hoses against protesters who have laid siege to government buildings to oppose a contentious extradition bill.

Thousands of protesters blocked entry to Hong Kong's government headquarters Wednesday, delaying a legislative session on a proposed extradition bill that has become a lightning rod for concerns over greater Chinese control and erosion of civil liberties in the territory.

The protesters overflowed onto a major downtown road as they overturned barriers and tussled with police outside the building that also houses the chambers where the legislature was to discuss the bill, which would allow criminal suspects in Hong Kong to be sent for trial in mainland China.

A statement from a Hong Kong administrator earlier said, "I would also like to ask the people in this gathering to stay calm and leave the scene as soon as possible and not to commit any crime."

Cheung gave no indication of when the delayed legislative debate would begin.

___

3:30 p.m.

Hong Kong officials are calling on protesters to leave the area where huge crowds are blocking streets to government headquarters and have delayed debate over a highly contentious extradition bill.

The second reading of the bill that would allow suspects to face trials in mainland China was due Wednesday. Protesters and police clashed intermittently, with protesters hurling traffic cones and other objects and police responding with pepper spray.

In a statement read to reporters, Chief Secretary for Administration Mathew Cheung said, "The Hong Kong government calls on people who are blocking roads to ... go back to the pavement as soon as possible."

He added, "I would also like to ask the people in this gathering to stay calm and leave the scene as soon as possible and not to commit any crime."

Cheung gave no indication of when the legislative debate would begin.

___

2 p.m.

Dozens of people are protesting outside the Hong Kong Consulate in Taiwan to denounce proposed amendments to Hong Kong's extradition laws.

Hong Kong students sitting outside the consulate in Taipei held posters reading "No extradition to China" and chanting "Hong Kong government, Shame on you."

Ho Wing Tung, a Hong Kong student in Taiwan, said the rule of law won't exist if the legislation passes and she is afraid the "one country, two systems" principle would become a joke.

Dissident Hong Kong bookseller Lam Wing-kee, who left Hong Kong for Taiwan over extradition fears, said the extradition law amendments go against human rights.

In Hong Kong, thousands of protesters were blocking entry to Hong Kong's government headquarters. A legislative session to debate the bill has been delayed.

___

11 a.m.

The secretariat of Hong Kong's Legislative Council says it has delayed the start of a legislative session on a contentious extradition bill as protesters massed outside to block entry to the chamber and government headquarters.

A statement from the government's press service said the session scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. Wednesday would be "changed to a later time to be determined" by the secretariat. Council members would be notified of the time of the meeting later, the statement said.

An overwhelmingly young crowd of demonstrators filled roads in the Wan Chai district to block access to the government offices. Many took the day off from work and classes to press their case that the amendments to the extradition bill would erode the semi-autonomous Chinese territory's civil liberties.

___

10:30 a.m.

Hundreds of protesters have blocked access to Hong Kong's legislature and government headquarters in a bid to block debate on a highly controversial extradition bill that would allow accused people to be sent to China for trial.

The overwhelmingly young crowd of demonstrators filled roads in the Wan Chai district. Many had taken the day off from work and classes Wednesday to press their case that the amendments to the extradition bill would erode the semi-autonomous Chinese territory's civil liberties.

Under its "one country, two systems" framework, Hong Kong was guaranteed its own social, legal and political systems for 50 years following its handover from British rule in 1997. However, China's ruling Communist Party has been seen as increasingly reneging on that agreement by forcing through unpopular legal changes.

___

8:50 a.m.

Hundreds of protesters have surrounded government headquarters in Hong Kong as the territory's legislature prepare to open discussion on a highly controversial extradition law that would allow residents accused of wrongdoing to be sent to China for trial.

The overwhelmingly young crowd of demonstrators overturned barriers and tussled with police Wednesday morning as they sought to enter government headquarters and offices of the Legislative Council.

Under its "one country, two systems" framework, Hong Kong was guaranteed the right to retain its own social, legal and political systems for 50 years following its handover from British rule in 1997. However, China's ruling Communist Party has been seen as increasingly reneging on that agreement by forcing through unpopular legal changes.

A vote on the amended laws is scheduled for June 20.

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