HK slowly getting back to normal after night of running battles between protesters and police

11-Jun-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:00 AM Print This Post

Things gradually returned to normal outside Hong Kong’s legislature and administrative headquarters on Monday after hundreds of protesters fought pitched battles with police overnight, following a peaceful demonstration against the city’s controversial extradition bill.

Organisers claimed that more than 1 million people took part in Sunday’s main rally against legislation that would allow the transfer of fugitives to jurisdictions with which Hong Kong has no extradition agreement, including mainland China.

By 6am, officers had searched and recorded the personal information of some 300 protesters who had been held near the old Wan Chai police station on Gloucester Road, one of the city’s main thoroughfares, which they blocked outside Immigration Tower at 2am.

A large group of people outside the Legislative Council building in Admiralty had also been removed by the time the sun came up.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor refused to answer questions when she arrived at her office in Admiralty on Monday, but was expected to make a statement later.

Meanwhile, the city’s No 2 official Matthew Cheung Kin-chung acknowledged the size of the rally, and that it was mostly peaceful, but said he regretted the violent actions of a few.

He reiterated the urgent need to pass the bill, which the government has always claimed was a response to the need to send a Hongkonger, wanted for questioning in connection with the death of his girlfriend in Taiwan, to the self-ruled island.

“A small group of radical protesters took radical actions and charged the police, resulting in clashes. We feel regret, but should condemn the violence,” the chief secretary said.

“The reading debate will resume on Wednesday, and I hope the discussion will be rational and peaceful.”

Cheung’s remarks came after the government released a statement at about 11pm on Sunday, saying it would press ahead with the bill in Legco on Wednesday, despite the massive protest.

Pan-democratic lawmaker Eddie Chu Hoi-dick told a radio show on Monday morning that the government should take all the blame for the violence, as the clashes all happened after its “irresponsible statement”.

“The crowds [at the clashes] were angry for the Hongkongers,” he said. “The government did not even give a reasonable and respectful response after more than 1 million people took to the streets. All the condemnations should be on the government.”

Police did not have the exact number of people arrested in the clashes overnight, but at least three officers were injured in the clashes, and Police Commissioner Stephen Lo Wai-chung strongly condemned the violence.

Hundreds of protesters started to gather around the legislature after the main rally finished at about 10pm, in a largely orderly fashion.

While a large police contingent guarded the compound, two pro-independence groups, Student Localism and the Students Independent Union, called on protesters to stay and storm the government building.

At around midnight, hundreds of masked protesters dashed towards the police lines, and tried to force their way into the legislature.

Protesters used the metal barricades surrounding the building to attack the police, trying to push them back. They also hurled bottles at officers, who responded with batons and pepper spray, while some protesters were wrestled to the ground and taken away.

Riot police were brought in, and they had largely controlled or cleared out the demonstrators by about 12.30am, and issued repeated warnings for those still in place to leave.

But the stand-off continued, and by 1am protesters had reorganised themselves to take over Lung Wo Road, heavily barricading an area that was the scene of bigger clashes during the 2014 Occupy movement.

An hour later the last of the protesters had been driven all the way back to Gloucester Road, where they began a new stand-off with police outside the immigration building.

Most of metal barricades used in the clashes had been removed by the time people started going to work, although some sections of the road remained cordoned off with evidence of the night’s unrest such as rubbish, water bottles, tissue paper, and face masks still visible.

Earlier on Sunday, the Civil Human Rights Front claimed 1.03 million people had taken part in the rally, double the turnout for the 2003 protest against the government’s push for national security legislation.

The non-official members of the Executive Council issued a joint statement on Monday morning, reiterating their support for the bill, despite the massive protest.

“The Exco members reiterated their support to the government’s legislative exercise to ensure that justice be done, observe Hong Kong’s obligations in combating transnational crimes, avoid Hong Kong from becoming a bolt-hole for criminals, and safeguard Hong Kong’s international reputation in the legal aspects,” the statement read.

“The government has explained in detail on multiple occasions the rationale behind the amendments, the respective categories of offences and the legal and administrative safeguards to allay worries raised earlier by different sectors of the community.”


Category: Hong Kong

Print This Post

Comments are closed.