Hong Kong’s government has responded to protesters on Sunday saying its controversial extradition bill is grounded in the rule of law. It urged further legislative scrutiny of the proposal, as thousands of demonstrators continued to swell outside the central government complex.

See also: In Pictures: Violent clashes as Hong Kong police clear protesters following anti-extradition bill demo

A government spokesperson said the bill will resume its second reading at the main legislative chamber on Wednesday, as scheduled, before being put to a vote: “We urge the Legislative Council to scrutinise the bill in a calm, reasonable and respectful manner to help ensure Hong Kong remains a safe city for residents and business,” the statement read.

extradition mass protest
Photo: Philip Fong/AFP.

Organisers said over 1.03 million people turned out to protest proposed amendments to extradition laws, in the largest protest since the city’s handover in 1997. The turnout was more than double that of their original aim to attract 500,000 people, though police said 270,000 attended at the peak of the rally.

No comment from Lam

The spokesperson added the government had listened to concerns attentively and responded positively, highlighting concessions made in March and a further three last month.

“The Chief Executive [can] not bypass the court to surrender a fugitive to any requesting party including the mainland. The government’s proposals are therefore firmly grounded in the rule of law,” they said.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam attended three public events on Sunday but declined to comment on the march.

extradition hong kong protest (11)
Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Sunday’s largely peaceful protest saw a tense standoff between police and those occupying the legislative complex at the end, with pepper spray deployed to disperse protesters who had removed metal barriers.

Hong Kong’s government first proposed legal amendments in February to allow the city to handle case-by-case extradition requests from jurisdictions with no prior agreements, most notably China and Taiwan. The plan would enable the chief executive and local courts to handle extradition requests without legislative oversight and could reach a final vote before the current legislative period ends in July. The government has said the law will allow it to close a legal “loophole.”

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Jennifer Creery is a Hong Kong-born British journalist, interested in minority rights and urban planning. She holds a BA in English at King's College London and has studied Mandarin at National Taiwan University.