Hong Kong’s chief executive has promised to move forward with a controversial extradition bill that it is feared could be used by China to make critics “disappear”.
Carrie 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” and will “uphold justice”.
The second reading of the bill will resume on Wednesday, despite huge protests.
Police used pepper spray to disperse protesters embroiled in violence outside the territory’s parliament building on Sunday.
They were part of an earlier demonstration calling for authorities to block the controversial bill.
If passed into law, the bill will allow suspected criminals in the territory to be sent to the mainland to face trial.
Hundreds of thousands of people took part in the protest, which was mostly peaceful.
But violence erupted late on Sunday evening outside parliament as protesters tried to break past police to enter the Legislative Council building.
Pictures from the scene showed police using pepper spray, and a bloodied officer resting on the ground.
Earlier in the day, demonstrators of all ages and backgrounds chanted “no China extradition, no evil law” during the march, while some also demanded the resignation of Ms Lam.
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.