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Chaotic scenes at Hong Kong legislature over extradition law

AP  |  Hong Kong 

Hong Kong's legislative assembly descended into chaos Saturday as lawmakers for and against controversial amendments to the territory's clashed over access to the chamber.

At least one lawmaker was taken from the chamber on a gurney after apparently fainting during the morning melee, in which legislators pushed and shoved each other on the floor, amid seats and tables and in an adjoining hallway.

The amendments have been widely criticized as eroding the semi-autonomous Chinese territory's legal independence by making it easier to send criminal suspects to mainland China, where they could face vague national security charges and unfair trials.

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

Legislators in the pro-camp attempted to seat Abraham Razack, who had been named earlier in the week to replace pro-democrat James To Kun-sun as of the To had stalled passage of the legislation and Razack was seen as the best chance to push it through.

The removed by paramedics was identified as of Neo Democrats.

The amendments expand the scope for the transfer of criminal suspects to and remove the legislature's right to scrutinize individual extradition decisions filed by Hong Kong's

They could also open the way for further measures to erode Hong Kong's civil liberties, including the passage of anti-subversion legislation that has been strongly opposed by many.

Saturday's legislative scuffle came weeks after a court handed down prison sentences of up to 16 months to eight leaders of massive 2014 pro-democracy protests on public nuisance charges. The harsh sentences were seen as an effort by the government to draw a line under the protests amid pressure from

Tens of thousands of people marched against the amendments in Hong Kong last month and numerous legal, professional and human rights organizations have voiced their opposition. They warn the amendments would undermine not just Hong Kong's legal independence but also its attractiveness as a center for international business.

Hong Kong's said Friday the government would "further explain the proposed to the public," according to the government's press office.

"Some citizens and overseas organizations might have misunderstandings about the proposed law amendments," Cheung said.

Hong Kong has said the amendments must be passed to close a "loophole" under which the government has been unable to extradite a Hong Kong man, Chan Tong-kai, accused of killing his girlfriend in last year.

Lam was chosen in 2017 from among a slate of candidates approved by and elected by a 1,200-member pro-electoral body. However, self-governing has firmly ruled out signing any extradition agreement with Hong Kong unless it is treated as an equal, a condition Beijing, which claims the island as its own territory, is certain to reject. That would appear to undermine one of the government's major justifications for the amendments.

Taiwanese officials have also warned that Taiwanese detained in Hong Kong could be sent to for their political activities if the amendments are passed.

A Taiwanese activist, Lee Ming-che, is currently serving a five-year sentence in China after being convicted by a in November 2017 on charges of subverting state power for holding online political lectures and helping the families of jailed Chinese dissidents.

Lee disappeared into the custody of the in March 2017 after crossing into China from to meet with a friend. His arrest was seen as a sign the ruling party intends to extend its intolerance of criticism even outside its borders.

The will continue to liaise with over the homicide case, Cheung said.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sat, May 11 2019. 11:15 IST