Hundreds in Vancouver protest Hong Kong's extradition law

Classic outdoor seating at a traditional restaurant in Sheung Wan

"They have failed to realize that the opposition camp is using them merely as pawns in its maneuvers to reap political gains by damaging the SAR government's credibility and reputation, or that some foreign forces are seizing the opportunity to advance their own strategy to hurt China by trying to create havoc in Hong Kong", the China Daily said.

It was a dramatic rebuke of Carrie Lam, the city's chief executive, and immediately raised the stakes in her contentious push to adopt the new legislation, which the ruling Communist Party in Beijing has endorsed. Likewise, no one who faces the death penalty will be extradited.

Human rights campaigners say detainees in China face arbitrary detentions, forced confessions and problems in accessing legal support.

"This now is making everyone, people from all walks of life in Hong Kong, really afraid, because they basically have no rule of law", Wong told CBC Toronto.

An online petition that the group had launched to demand the withdrawal of the bill has received more than 620 signatures from Hong Kong students and alumni of Taiwanese universities, Ho said.

Riot police surrounded Hong Kong's parliament early on Monday after what had been a peaceful rally attended by an estimated one million people descended into running clashes between police and protesters.

From mid-afternoon until well past nightfall, hundreds of thousands poured in from a major Hong Kong roadway to gather outside Legislative Council, the city's semi-democratic legislature that is now debating the bill.

Some carried yellow umbrellas - a symbol of the pro-democracy Occupy protests that choked key city streets for 79 days in 2014.

But the proposal has gridlocked the city's Legislative Council, which is roughly divided between pro-democratic and pro-Beijing camps.

The changes will allow for extradition requests from authorities in mainland China, Taiwan and Macau for suspects accused of criminal wrongdoing such as murder and rape. Marco Rubio, who chair the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, sent a letter last month to Lam expressing concern that the law would "negatively impact the relationship between the United States and Hong Kong", asking that the legislation be immediately withdrawn.

The government has sought to reassure the public with some concessions, including promising to only hand over fugitives for offences carrying maximum sentences of at least seven years. Critics of the bill argue Hong Kong residents would be subjected to unfair trials and worse legal protections in the mainland.

But a special agreement with China - called "one country, two systems" - means that Hong Kong still has a number of differences to the rest of China.

Officials initially seized on the murder past year of a young Hong Kong woman holidaying in Taiwan to justify swift changes.

"The extradition bill will directly threaten the core values of Hong Kong and rule of law", said 21-year-old Kelvin Tam, a student in London.

Hong Kong officials have defended the plans, saying the laws have safeguards, including local judges, who will see cases before approval by Lam.

Hundreds of Hong Kongers yesterday rallied outside the territory's representative office in Taipei to protest a proposed extradition law, which they said could further erode the territory's autonomy.

"The global community and the business sector are extremely anxious about this law and once you lose confidence in Hong Kong then of course they will just move away their capital".

A long-forgotten issue, the need for an eventual extradition deal with the mainland was acknowledged by government officials and experts ahead of Hong Kong's handover from British to Chinese rule in 1997 under the "one country, two systems" model.

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