Two petrol bombs were thrown outside police stations in Hong Kong on Friday, ahead of a mass demonstration of public anger over plans to allow the rendition of suspects to mainland China.
Police arrested four men after two petrol bomb attacks, the first of which was outside police headquarters in Wanchai at 3.00 a.m., and the second outside the Happy Valley police station at around 4.00 p.m.
Hong Kong's South China Morning Post later reported that the arrested suspects had ties to criminal organizations known as triads. However, the motivation behind the attacks was unclear.
Asked why officers at the scene had not given immediate chase, Superintendent Law Kwok-hoi of the regional crime unit on Hong Kong Island said police needed to be sure that more explosives weren't contained in the vehicle.
The attacks came as fire and rescue workers removed a large banner from Hong Kong's iconic Lion Rock, opposing the amendments to the city's Fugitive Offenders Ordinance, which will allow China to request the rendition of criminal suspects from the Hong Kong authorities in the absence of a formal extradition treaty.
Banners reading "oppose extradition to China" were hung on campuses at the University of Hong Kong, the Chinese University, Polytechnic University, City University, Baptist University and the Education University, government broadcaster RTHK reported.
Meanwhile, around 10 members of the League of Social Democrats (LSD) called on Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam to step down over the extradition row.
"Lam should resign! Withdraw the evil China renditions law!" protesters chanted as Lam attended a Dragon Boat race in Tuen Mun.
"Crowd the streets on June 9!" they shouted. "Smash the evil China renditions law!"
The amendments have been dubbed the "send-to-China" law, punning on the Cantonese for "final send-off," which also denotes a funeral.
Widespread vocal opposition
LSD member Leung Kwok-hung said the law, if amended, will allow the Hong Kong government to send anyone who happens to be in Hong Kong to face trial in mainland China.
"Under these amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance being railroaded through by Carrie Lam, Hong Kong resident could get extradited to be tried in mainland China," Leung said.
"How are you going to protect the rights of Hong Kong people against violation by the [ruling] Chinese Communist Party if you are sending an innocent person to mainland China to face trial?"
The government's planned legal amendment—which the ruling Chinese Communist Party wants implemented "urgently"—has sparked widespread fear that the city will lose its status as a separate legal jurisdiction, and that rights activists and dissidents in the city could be targeted by Beijing for actions deemed illegal across the internal border.
Judges, lawyers, opposition politicians, rights activists, business groups, and journalists have all expressed vocal opposition to the plan, which will allow China to request the extradition of an alleged suspect from Hong Kong based on the standards of evidence that currently apply in its own courts.
The most likely jurisdiction to use the proposed provision is mainland China, which currently has no formal extradition treaty with Hong Kong, and Lam has tried to reassure people that legal safeguards will be used to safeguard the rights of suspects.
But lawyers marching on Thursday in protest said the government's supposed safeguards are meaningless, and said they had staged a silent protest in a bid to get more people out onto the streets for Sunday's march.
Former British colonial government Chris Patten hit out at the amendments on Thursday, the latest in a string of highly critical statements.
“It’s a proposal, or a set of proposals, which 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,” Patten said in a video commentary posted online on Thursday.
He said the law would "remove the firewall between Hong Kong’s rule of law and the idea of law which prevails in Communist China: an idea of law where there aren’t any independent courts; where the courts and the security services and the party’s rule which are, sometimes, pretty obscure, are rolled all together."
Reported by Wong Lok-to for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Gao Feng for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.