Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam condemned the violence late on Wednesday and called for a swift restoration of order as Thursday’s debate of the controversial bill to allow extradition to China was put on hold for another day.
Lam refused to withdraw the bill which she said was needed to close “loopholes” allowing criminals wanted on the mainland to hide out in Hong Kong.
On Thursday morning, some protesters did brave the rain as street cleaners worked to clear the debris from the previous days’ demonstrations.
Umbrellas on the street from the demonstration against the bill
Central government administrative offices were to be closed in the financial district on Thursday and Friday, workers in Hong Kong were told.
A shopping mall and several banks near the legislature were also closed. Uniformed police stood near a long line of police vans as plain-clothed police checked commuters’ identification.
A huge demonstration on Sunday and then further street rallies during the week have prevented debate on the extradition bill being held. Wednesday night was the third night of violent protests since Sunday’s rally of more than a million people, the largest since the 1997 handover of control from the British to Hong Kong authorities.
Hongkong protests continued through the week
The European Union added its voice to the criticism of the extradition bill and called for citizens’ rights to be respected. The EU “shares many of the concerns raised by citizens of Hong Kong regarding the government’s proposed extradition reforms”, it said in a statement.
The law has “potentially far-reaching consequences for Hong Kong and its people, for EU and foreign citizens, as well as for business confidence in Hong Kong.”
Monitor group Human Rights Watch said: “The authorities should recognize Hong Kong’s legal obligation to allow people to make their views known through peaceful protests.”
Despite official calls to disperse, demonstrators continued to march on Wednesday. They overturned police barriers and stood their ground even when confronted with pepper spray and a threat by police to use force if they continued to oppose their orders.
Some protesters left umbrellas on the police barricades, an homage to the “Occupy Democracy” movement that began in 2014. The massive, months-long campaign was prompted by constitutional reforms that allowed Beijing to approve candidates for Hong Kong elections.
One million strong
Organizers say that over 1 million people have joined in the demonstrations, which blocked two main highways near government headquarters on Wednesday. Most of the protesters are students and young people. Students were boycotting classes to attend the rallies.
A question of autonomy and rights
Activists have decried the move to allow extradition to China, because of Beijing’s poor human rights and legal record. Many in Hong Kong are also upset by the creeping authoritarianism in the city, after they were promised autonomy when the territory was given back to China from the UK in 1997.
Out in force
Thousands of officers, including riot police, have been deployed throughout the city. Over the weekend, demonstrators hurled bottles at security forces and tried to push their way into the parliament building, but were blocked.
One country, two systems
China has long promised Hong Kong self-rule under the “one country, two systems” motto. But for those in the sprawling city, the extradition bill is the latest in a long line of examples of creeping Chinese control.
The UN’s Human Rights Office spokeswoman said: “We call on all parties to express their views peacefully and on Hong Kong’s authorities to engage in an inclusive and transparent dialogue over the draft legislation.”
jm/jil (Reuters, dpa)
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