"It's pretty scary, to be honest."

This is how a former Tauranga woman describes the feeling in Hong Kong before a proposed extradition law potentially comes into effect.

Claire, who for safety reasons has only used her first name, has lived in Hong Kong for the past eight years but is happy she is returning to New Zealand.

Hundreds of thousands of protesters took to Hong Kong's financial hub on Wednesday and violent clashes erupted with riot police. Protesters are trying to stop lawmakers from debating a bill that would to allow criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China, among other places.

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Hong Kong protests: What you need to know. /AP

Claire lives 20 minutes from central Hong Kong and on Thursday travelled in to take a look.

"There wasn't so much a feeling there was anything going on but there was definitely remnants of the day before," she said.

"There was a lot of rubbish still around and a lot of the underground stations were closed. The trains would just pass by and wouldn't stop."

Claire has fallen in love with the lifestyle and hated the idea of leaving but said, on the other hand, there were some things about Hong Kong which meant she could not wait to leave.

"One of those reasons is the presence of China."

The Hong Kong Government, led by chief executive Carrie Lam, has said it has no intention of giving in to the protesters' demands of scrapping the proposed law.

Protesters feel the law will undercut local autonomy and end Hong Kong's status as a safe haven for dissidents fleeing the mainland.

"It is a lot scarier for locals than it is for expats because if everything turns to s**t we can go home but with locals, it is not so much," Claire said.

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"Anyone, not just residents but anyone, who passes through Hong Kong that says anything bad about the Chinese Government could be taken to China and tried."

Although Claire hoped the world was listening and watching the events, she was unsure how the world could help.

"I feel really sorry for the younger generation because they are the ones who are going to suffer."

Last year, Claire and her husband were granted residency but she was not sure of the right decision when it came to her children.

"In 20 years I didn't know if they would want to be here."

In the last Census, 222 people living in New Zealand identified with the Hong Kong Chinese ethnic group.