Hong Kong protest organisers plan new rallies against extradition bill

Hong Kong protesters vow to keep fighting against extradition bill as organisers plan new round of rallies and call for city-wide strikes

  • Tens of thousands of protesters in Hong Kong filled streets and overturned barriers near parliament yesterday
  • Clashes broke out at 3pm local time – the deadline protesters had given for government to abandon the law
  • Officials said 72 people were injured with two of them were in serious condition while 11 people were arrested
  • Videos of the clashes went viral, fuelling public anger and sparking accusations of police brutality
  • Hong Kong authorities shuttered government buildings today until the end of the week following the rally
  • Telegram said it was hit by a cyberattack from mostly Chinese IP addresses at the same time of the protests
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Protesters in Hong Kong vowed today to keep fighting against a proposed extradition law with China, a day after riot police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at unarmed demonstrators.

Several thousand protesters in face masks, goggles and makeshift body armour gathered near the city’s legislature in the Admiralty district, chanting ‘retract, retract!’ to urge the government to abandon a controversial bill that would allow criminal suspects in Hong Kong to be sent for trial in mainland China.

Authorities have shut government offices in the city’s financial district for the rest of the week after some of the worst violence in the city since Britain handed it back to Chinese rule in 1997. Officials say 72 people were injured, with two of them in serious condition and 11 people were arrested.

The violence followed a mass protest on Sunday that drew what organisers said was more than a million people out to the streets to voice their objections to the proposed law. Officials in the Legislative Council said they would delay the second reading of the bill ‘to a later date’. 

The Civil Human Rights Front which organised last weekend’s huge march, announced plans for another demonstration for this coming Sunday.

Several thousand protesters in face masks gather near the city’s legislature in the Admiralty district today, chanting ‘retract, retract!’ to urge the government to abandon a controversial bill that would allow criminal suspects in Hong Kong to be sent for trial in mainland China. Authorities have shut government offices in the city’s financial district for the rest of the week

Residents argue with officers at the Tamar Park outside the Central Government Complex this morning. The Legislative Council delayed a second reading of the controversial extradition bill after police and protesters clashed yesterday

A protester holds a sign that reads ‘stop shooting HK student’ following a day of violence over the extradition bill. Officials say 72 people were hurt and two of them are in critical condition in hospital

Protesters face off with police after they fired tear gas at unarmed demonstrators yesterday during the rally

The organisation also called for a city-wide strike on Monday to keep pressure on the financial hub’s government to scrap the proposed bill.

‘We urge citizens to join labour strikes, school strikes and business strikes,’ said Jimmy Sham, the group’s convener. 

The extradition bill, which will cover Hong Kong residents and foreign and Chinese nationals living or travelling through the city, has sparked concerns it may threaten the rule of law that underpins Hong Kong’s international financial status. 

Clashes broke out shortly after 3pm local time yesterday, with videos showing police officers equipped with riot shields, tear gas, pepper spray and batons pushing back tens of thousands of umbrella-wielding protesters attempting to storm into the city’s Legislative Council, where the bill was due for a scheduled debate. 

Encrypted messaging app Telegram said it was hit by a powerful cyberattack that has coincided with the protests. 

Police stand guard on a footbridge near the government headquarters today following a day of violent clashes during the rally. The Civil Human Rights Front which organised last weekend’s huge march, announced plans for another rally for this coming Sunday

Protesters vow to keep fighting against the proposed extradition law as they urge the government to abandon the bill that would allow criminal suspects in Hong Kong to be sent for trial in mainland China

Police patrol near the Legislative Council today. Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said in a statement early today that the peaceful rally had become a ‘blatant, organised riot’ and urged a swift restoration of order

Pro-democracy lawmakers Claudia Mo (front, centre) and Gary Fan Kwok-wai (front, right) attempt to march to Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s residence a day after violence broke out during a protest against an extradition law

Telegram CEO Pavel Durov tweeted yesterday that the attack came from mostly Chinese IP addresses. 

He says: ‘Historically, all state actor-sized (attacks) we experienced coincided in time with protests in Hong Kong (coordinated on @telegram). This case was not an exception.’

Activists in both Hong Kong and mainland China, where Telegram is blocked, frequently use the messaging system to organise protests in hopes of evading government surveillance. 

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said in a statement early today that the peaceful rally had become a ‘blatant, organised riot’ and urged a swift restoration of order. 

While acknowledging the controversy, Lam has refused to postpone or withdraw the bill, which she and her officials say is necessary to plug ‘loopholes’ that allow the city to be a haven for criminals wanted on the mainland. 

Protesters take part in a hunger strike during a fresh demonstration against the extradition bill

Police officers fire a tear gas during the demonstration yesterday. Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said in a statement early today that the peaceful rally had become a ‘blatant, organised riot’ and urged a swift restoration of order

Police officers use batons on protesters who were attempting to storm past barricades to get into government offices

While acknowledging the controversy, city leader Carrie Lam has refused to postpone or withdraw the bill, which she and her officials say is necessary to plug ‘loopholes’ that allow the city to be a haven for criminals wanted on the mainland

Lam has said the courts would provide human rights safeguards in vetting case-by-case extraditions to mainland China

Lam has said the courts would provide human rights safeguards in vetting case-by-case extraditions to mainland China.

Uniformed police with helmets and shields blocked overhead walkways in Hong Kong’s financial district today, while a long row of police vans was parked nearby.

Plainclothes police officers checked commuters’ identity papers as a massive clean up was underway, clearing streets of debris, like broken umbrellas used by protesters to protect themselves and broken barricades, left from the violent clashes.

‘We are ready to have a protracted war with the government,’ said one protester, Natalie Wong. ‘I am young, that’s why I have to fight for Hong Kong.’ 

Most roads around the business district were opening for traffic, but Pacific Place, a prime shopping mall next to the legislature in Admiralty, stayed shut. 

Opponents of the proposed extradition law, including leading lawyers and rights groups, say China’s justice system is marked by torture and forced confessions, arbitrary detention and poor access to lawyers

A protester is arrested during the rally yesterday against the proposed extradition bill. Officials say 72 people were hurt.

Critics said officers used localised violence by small groups of hardcore activists to launch an unprecedented operation against the much larger mass of peaceful protesters yesterday

Diplomatic pressure was also building after leaders such as British Prime Minister Theresa May and US President Donald Trump commented on the protests

Opponents of the extradition law, including leading lawyers and rights groups, say China’s justice system is marked by torture and forced confessions, arbitrary detention and poor access to lawyers

Banks, including Standard Chartered, Bank of China and DBS, said they had suspended branch services in the area. 

Banks in the Central district emphasised it was ‘business as usual’ but many offered staff the option of working from home.

‘As a precaution, we shut two outlets early where the protests were taking place. Our priorities are the safety of our employees and supporting our customers,’ said HSBC, whose ground-level public space at its headquarters has previously been a focal point for protests.

Opponents of the extradition law, including leading lawyers and rights groups, say China’s justice system is marked by torture and forced confessions, arbitrary detention and poor access to lawyers. 

Diplomatic pressure was also building after leaders such as British Prime Minister Theresa May and US President Donald Trump commented on the protests. 

Wednesday’s violence was some of the worst the city has seen since Britain handed it back to Chinese rule in 1997

Police equipped with riot shields, tear gas and batons have pushed back against unarmed protesters attempting to storm past barricades to get into the city’s government headquarters

Tens of thousands of protesters paralysed central Hong Kong yesterday, blocking major roads in a defiant show of strength against government plans to allow extraditions to China. The government said they would delay the second reading of the bill

Clashes broke out shortly after 3pm local time – the deadline protesters had given for the government to abandon a controversial bill that would allow criminal suspects in Hong Kong to be sent for trial in mainland China

China today hit out at the European Union for making ‘irresponsible and erroneous’ remarks about Hong Kong after the bloc said it shared residents’ concerns over the proposed extradition reforms and urged an in-depth public consultation.

‘This is a sensitive issue, with potentially far-reaching consequences for Hong Kong and its people, for EU and foreign citizens, as well as for business confidence,’ the EU said in a statement yesterday.

‘I have said many times that Hong Kong affairs are purely China’s internal affairs. No country, organisation or individual has the right to intervene in them,’ foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regular press briefing. 

In an editorial featuring a photo of a bloodied officer, the state-run China Daily said yesterday evening that protesters are using the bill ‘to tarnish the image of the government.’ 

‘It is lawlessness that will hurt Hong Kong, not the proposed amendments to its fugitive law,’ said the English edition of the newspaper. Xinhua state news agency said protesters used ‘sharpened iron poles’ and bricks against police. 

The Hong Kong Bar Association slammed the ‘deployment of wholly unnecessary force against largely unarmed protesters who did not appear to pose any immediate threat to the police or the public at large’

China today hit out at the European Union for making ‘irresponsible and erroneous’ remarks about Hong Kong after the bloc said it shared residents’ concerns over the proposed extradition reforms and urged an in-depth public consultation

The city’s bar association said the police ‘may well have over-stepped its lawful powers in maintaining public order’

Protesters drag barricades to fortify their occupied area on a main road in the Admiralty district of Hong Kong last night

But critics said officers used localised violence by small groups of hardcore activists to launch an unprecedented operation against the much larger mass of peaceful protesters.

Criticism of police tactics poured today as videos of the clashes went viral.

In one Apple Daily clip, a young woman who falls to the floor while running away is hit by at least four riot police with batons, while one brings his plastic riot shield crashing down on her.

In another, a man sitting on a wall is approached by riot police, with whom he is seen exchanging a few words before they spray pepper repeatedly into his face at close range. 

A third online clip shows several policemen slam a protester holding a box of water bottles to the ground, where several kneel on him to hold him down until he releases his phone. 

The Hong Kong Bar Association slammed the ‘deployment of wholly unnecessary force against largely unarmed protesters who did not appear to pose any immediate threat to the police or the public at large.’ 

Labels supporting protesters are seen stuck on a ‘democracy wall’ today. Criticism of police tactics poured today as videos of the clashes went viral

The Civil Human Rights Front which organised last weekend’s huge march, announced plans for another demonstration for this coming Sunday

Protesters occupy two main highways near the government headquarters in Hong Kong earlier yesterday. Debate on the bill in the city’s Legislative Council delayed until further notice

The group said the police ‘may well have over-stepped its lawful powers in maintaining public order.’

The Hong Kong Journalists Association said it has received more than 15 complaints from reporters – including some who say they were targeted with pepper spray – and called for more witness accounts from reporters of any abuses by police. 

An influential legal group on a committee that elects Hong Kong’s leader called for an independent inquiry into what it said was ‘excessive use of force’ by officers.

In an impromptu media standup in the legislature, democratic lawmakers strongly criticised Lam’s heavy-handed police response.

‘We are not a haven for criminals, but we have become a haven of violent police. Firing at our children? None of the former chief executives dared to do that,’ said legislator Fernando Cheung.

The Hong Kong Journalists Association said it has received more than 15 complaints from reporters – including some who say they were targeted with pepper spray – and called for more witness accounts from reporters of any abuses by police

An influential legal group on a committee that elects Hong Kong’s leader called for an independent inquiry into what it said was ‘excessive use of force’ by officers

In an impromptu media standup in the legislature, democratic lawmakers strongly criticised Lam’s heavy-handed police response. Members of the media run for cover after police officers fire tear gas at them during the rally

A protester waves a British flag near the government headquarters. Diplomatic pressure was also building after leaders such as British Prime Minister Theresa May and US President Donald Trump commented on the protests

‘But ‘mother Carrie Lam’ did it. What kind of mother is she? I have never seen such an evil-hearted mother.’ 

Police chief Stephen Lo defended his officers, saying they had shown restraint until ‘mobsters’ tried to storm parliament.

‘These violent protesters kept charging at our line of defence, and used very dangerous weapons, including… throwing metal barricades at us and throwing bricks,’ he said.

Amnesty International joined domestic rights groups in condemning yesterday’s use of police force as excessive, while a spokeswoman for the UN Human Rights Office in Geneva said it was following the situation closely.

‘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,’ the spokeswoman said.

Why is Hong Kong’s extradition law fueling protests?

Hong Kong’s government has indefinitely delayed the second round of debate on an extradition bill that would allow people to be sent to mainland China for trial for the first time, after chaotic protests by tens of thousands of people.

Hong Kong residents, as well as foreign and Chinese nationals living or traveling through the global financial hub, would all be at risk if they are wanted on the mainland.

Pro-establishment political forces are dominant in the Legislative Council and the bill is expected to be passed by the end of the month.

WHAT DOES THE EXTRADITION BILL INVOLVE?

Protesters march along a downtown street against the proposed amendments to an extradition law in Hong Kong on Sunday

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

It explicitly allows extraditions from Hong Kong to greater China – including the mainland, Taiwan and Macau – for the first time, closing what Hong Kong government officials have repeatedly described as a ‘loophole’ that they claim has allowed the city to become a haven for criminals from the mainland.

Hong Kong’s leader would start and finally approve an extradition following a request from a foreign jurisdiction but only after court hearings, including any possible appeals. However, the bill removes Legislative Council oversight of extradition arrangements.

WHY IS THE HONG KONG GOVERNMENT PUSHING IT NOW?

Officials initially seized on the murder last year of a young Hong Kong woman holidaying in Taiwan to justify swift changes. Police say her boyfriend confessed on his return to Hong Kong and he is now in jail on lesser money-laundering charges.

Taiwan authorities have strongly opposed the bill, which they say could leave Taiwanese citizens exposed in Hong Kong and have vowed to refuse taking back the murder suspect if the bill is passed.

A long-forgotten issue, the need for an eventual extradition deal with the mainland was acknowledged by government officials and experts ahead of Hong Kong’s handover from British to Chinese rule in 1997 under the ‘one country, two systems’ model.

The city maintains a separate and independent legal system as part of the broader freedoms the formula guarantees. Little progress has been made in discreet talks since then with justice and security officials on the mainland, where the Communist Party still controls the courts.

HOW STRONG IS OPPOSITION TO THE BILL?

Protest placards and flowers are displayed during a demonstration in Hong Kong on June 11  to demand authorities scrap a proposed extradition bill with China

Concern about the amendments has spiraled in recent weeks, taking in pro-business and pro-Beijing elements usually loath to publicly contradict the Hong Kong or Chinese governments. 

Senior Hong Kong judges have privately expressed alarm, and mainland commercial lawyers based in Hong Kong have echoed their fears, saying the mainland system cannot be trusted to meet even basic standards of judicial fairness. Hong Kong lawyers’ groups have issued detailed submissions to the government, hoping to force a postponement.

Authorities have repeatedly stressed that judges will serve as ‘gatekeepers’ or guardians for extradition requests. However, some judges say privately that China’s increasingly close relationship with Hong Kong and the limited scope of extradition hearings will leave them exposed to criticism and political pressure from Beijing.

Schools, lawyers and church groups have joined human rights groups to protest against the measures. Following a brawl in the legislature over the bill, the government moved to fast-track the bill by scrapping established legislative procedures that stoked outrage amongst critics.

Police officers stand guard outside the Legislative Council building as people protest the extradition bill with China in Hong Kong on the night of June 11

Foreign political and diplomatic pressure over human rights concerns is rising, too. As well as recent statements from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his British and German counterparts, some 11 European Union envoys met Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam to protest formally.

‘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,’ Hong Kong’s last British governor, Chris Patten, said on Thursday.

Some opposition politicians say the issue now represents a turning point for the city’s free status.

WILL THE GOVERNMENT DROP THE BILL?

Lam and her key officials have been strident in defending the bill both publicly and privately, stressing the need for action in the Taiwan murder and the need to plug a loophole.

They also insist broad safeguards mean that anyone at risk of political or religious persecution or who faces torture will not be extradited. Likewise, no one who faces the death penalty will be extradited. China denies accusations of human rights abuses.

While they have raised the threshold to serious crimes only, and excluded nine specific economic offenses, there is no hint yet that they will actually scrap the plan. They have also not announced more extensive consultations given the potentially grave repercussions.

Chinese officials have also now publicly supported the Hong Kong government in the face of diplomatic pressure, saying it has become a sovereign issue.

Some opposition politicians believe the Hong Kong government position is finally wavering, however, and Beijing may allow it to climb down if enough people hit the streets.

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