Politicians brawl in Hong Kong as extradition law debate turns ugly

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Hong Kong's government is pushing a bill through the city's legislature which would allow case-by-case extraditions to any jurisdictions it doesn't have an already agreed treaty with, including mainland China, Macau and Taiwan.

Anger over Hong Kong's controversial plans to allow extraditions to the Chinese mainland boiled over in the city's legislature on Saturday as rival lawmakers scuffled with each other in chaotic scenes.

Pro-democracy lawmaker Gary Fan lies down after clashes with pro-Beijing lawmakers during a meeting for control of a meeting room to consider the controversial extradition bill, in Hong Kong, China May 11, 2019.

Hong Kong was guaranteed the right to retain its own social, legal and political systems for 50 years following its handover from British to Chinese rule in 1996 under a policy dubbed "one country, two system".

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.

Fighting broke out between rival politicians in Hong Kong's equivalent of parliament as a debate over extradition laws turned ugly.

One pro-democracy lawmaker, Gary Fan, fell heavily and had to be stretchered to hospital.

The proposed amendments have been criticized as an assault on territory's semi-autonomous status within China, but supporters of the move argue that Hong Kong needs to update its extradition rules in order to cooperate with its neighbors. The democrats say the pro-China lawmakers breached rules in forming their own committee to try and ram through the legislation.

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The United States weighed into the controversy this week when a USA congressional commission said the law could extend China's "coercive reach" and create serious risks for US national security and economic interests in Hong Kong.

Last September, the government banned the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party (HKNP).

Chief Executive Lam insists that the changes to the extradition law are necessary to close the "loophole" under which the government has been unable to extradite a Hong Kong citizen, Chan Tong-kai, who is accused of killing his girlfriend in Taiwan past year.

Hong Kong's Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung said Friday the government would "further explain the proposed fugitive law change to the public", according to the government's press office.

Ms Lam has cited the case of a 19-year-old Hong Kong man who allegedly murdered his pregnant girlfriend while on holiday in Taiwan before fleeing home. Lam was chosen in 2017 from among a slate of candidates approved by Beijing and elected by a 1,200-member pro-China electoral body. That would appear to undermine one of the government's major justifications for the amendments.

Chiu Chui-cheng, deputy minister of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council, said Taiwanese people feared ending up like Lee Ming-che, a democracy activist who disappeared on a trip to the Chinese mainland and was later jailed for "subverting state power".

Yet Taiwan authorities have since said they opposed Hong Kong's extradition bill, and won't agree to an ad hoc extradition arrangement for the murder suspect even if the bill was passed.

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