Hong Kong legislators brawl over contentious extradition law

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Hong Kong lawmakers scuffled with each other on Saturday over the government's proposed amendments to the territory's extradition law.

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.

Rancour between the two political camps exploded with rival lawmakers shouting and tussling amid a dense pack of reporters, as pro-democracy lawmakers tried to seize the microphone and stop their counterparts in the legislature from controlling the meeting.

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. "We laughed at (scuffles in) Taiwan's legislature in the past, but Hong Kong's is even worse".

The bill is the latest lightning rod for Hong Kong people anxious about Beijing's powers over the city that was promised a high degree of autonomy under a "one country, two systems" formula when it returned to Chinese rule.

But pro-Beijing demonstrators were also out in force - the opposition has just a third of the seats in the Legislative Council.

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The International Chamber of Commerce sent a scathing letter to lawmakers Wednesday questioning why Hong Kong is fast-tracking such significant changes to its legal system with limited public consultation - calling the move "most unbecoming in terms of public governance".

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.

Historically, Hong Kong has baulked at mainland extraditions because of the opacity of China's criminal justice system and its liberal use of the death penalty. This would make it the largest rally since the 2014 Umbrella Movement pro-democracy protests.

They were brawling Saturday over controversial changes to an extradition treaty with mainland China.

Some protesters called for Carrie Lam to step down, saying she had "betrayed" the city. A Taiwanese activist, Lee Ming-che, is now serving a five-year sentence in China after being convicted by a Chinese court in November 2017 on charges of subverting state power for holding online political lectures and helping the families of jailed Chinese dissidents. They warn the amendments would undermine not just Hong Kong's legal independence but also its attractiveness as a center for worldwide business.

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