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Video explainer: Why are so many people protesting in Hong Kong?

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Video explainer: Why are so many people protesting in Hong Kong?
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REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
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Hong Kong is currently experiencing some of its biggest protests, with tens of thousands of people taking to the streets to march against a proposed extradition law.

Here is what you need to know:

What does the proposed law contain?

The Hong Kong government launched proposals in February, which put forward changes that would simplify case-by-case extraditions of criminal suspects to countries beyond the 20 with which Hong Kong already has treaties.

One of the sticking points for protesters was that it explicitly stated extraditions from Hong Kong to greater China — including the mainland, Taiwan and Macau — would be allowed for the first time.

Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam would both start and have final approval extraditions following requests from a foreign jurisdiction but only after court hearings, including any possible appeals.

The bill also removes the Legislative Council of Hong Kong's oversight of extradition arrangements.

What do its critics say?

Those who oppose the bill are worried it could allow Chinese authorities to target political opponents in Hong Kong.

The justice system is much stricter in mainland China and senior Hong Kong judges have privately expressed alarm. Mainland commercial lawyers saying the system there cannot be trusted to meet even basic standards of judicial fairness.

What do its supporters say?

Hong Kong government officials have said the bill closes what they have repeatedly described as a “loophole”.

They claim it has allowed the city to become a haven for criminals from the mainland.

They insist that the law has built-in protections, with authorities reiterating that judges will serve as gatekeepers for extradition requests.

Authorities used the murder last year of a young Hong Kong woman on holiday in Taiwan to justify the sweeping changes — police say her boyfriend confessed on his return to Hong Kong and he is now in jail on lesser money-laundering charges.

Lam and politicians close to her have been unwavering in their defence of the bill, underlining the need to plug a loophole.

Taiwanese authorities have opposed the bill saying it could leave Taiwanese citizens exposed in Hong Kong, adding they will not take back the murder suspect should it be passed.

Why are people demonstrating now?

Lawmakers were set to debate the bill on Wednesday but were forced to delay the session because of the protests.

The government said the proceedings in the Legislative Council would be delayed until further notice.

Lam, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, has vowed to press ahead with the legislation.

READ MORE: Hong Kong protest forces delay to extradition bill debate

What's going on in the demonstrations?

On Wednesday, the protesters shut down large parts of Hong Kong, which is Asia’s foremost financial centre and surrounded the city’s legislature.

With demonstrators easily outnumbering police, they put up barricades and blocked traffic as they set about occupying the area around the building.

Earlier on Wednesday businesses prepared to go on strike, as demonstrators from across a wide spectrum of Hong Kong society began joining overnight protests.

Police fired tear gas, water cannons, and pepper spray in retaliation as hundreds of protesters tried to storm the legislative council complex.

What's the back story?

Hong Kong, a densely populated urban centre situated south of mainland China, was under British rule until 1997.

Bejing and London reached a deal that saw Hong Kong returned to Chinese authorities after more than 150 years.

Five years ago there was a series of sit-in protests — dubbed the umbrella revolution — to oppose reforms that critics claimed would allow Bejing to pre-screen candidates before they ran to be the next leader of Hong Kong.

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