"What is clear is Beijing's direction of travel. They need Hong Kong brought to book. They need to eliminate opposition. They need to intensify the integration of the city and that obviously represents a fundamental clash with the liberal democratic values that many Hongkongers uphold but is also the core of the Hong Kong system.
"Autonomy and 'Two Systems' was designed to protect Hong Kong from the capricious legal and political system of the mainland. As mainland becomes more and more assertive, the risks to the Hong Kong system as we know it continue to rise," Bland said.
At stake is Hong Kong's future as a global financial center and base for multinational corporate entities with business in Asia and China. The American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong recently expressed opposition to the government's determination to rush the bill through parliament, adding that it put at risk Hong Kong's reputation for rule of law.
The new bill raises fears that Hong Kong citizens, foreigners living in Hong Kong and even people passing through Hong Kong's airport could be arrested and sent to mainland China, where critics say the legal system fails to guarantee a fair trial.
Many countries, including the U.S., do not allow extradition to China because its legal system -- which is under Communist Party control and has a conviction of more than 99% -- lacks ordinary legal protections designed to guarantee a fair trial. Human Rights Watch has reported torture and disappearances of suspects into detention centers for months without charge and no access to lawyers or family.
In one recent example, New Zealand's Court of Appeal on Tuesday ruled against the extradition to China of Kyung Yup Kim, accused of murder by Chinese authorities, ruling that the New Zealand government reassess serious human rights concerns in China, including the right to a fair trial and the use of torture.
Joseph Cheng Yu-shek, a pro-democracy activist and former chair of the political science department at City University Hong Kong, said in an interview that many Hongkongers did not trust China's legal system because it was controlled by the Communists.
He said many people participating in Sunday's mass rally feared it could be the last time such a gathering was allowed, because of growing Chinese pressure on rights.
"There's a sense of pessimism here. I think the vast majority of people here knew that even if we marched and even if there was a big turnout we probably would not be able to change the decision of the government and the decision of Beijing."
"Certainly people are very angry. More than a million people came out to march and the government would not make any change. The pessimistic view is that you have to make a decision: Either you go, emigrate or you keep quiet."