Violence Erupts in HK as LegCo Delays Debate

Violence Erupts in HK as LegCo Delays Debate

Mass demonstrations rocked Hong Kong on Wednesday, the day of a planned legislative debate over the controversial Extradition Bill, the target of another large-scale protest over the weekend which drew an estimated one million people. In the midst of the protests, the Legislative Council postponed the debate. As protesters stormed police barricades in Central Hong Kong, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets into the crowd, resulting in dozens of injuries. The recent demonstrations have been the largest protests since 2014’s Umbrella Movement. CNN sums up Wednesday’s events:

Here’s what happened Wednesday in Hong Kong:

-Violent clashes erupted: Rubber bullets, pepper spray and hand-thrown tear gas were used to push back protesters who had occupied the city’s main thoroughfare near the government headquarters, as well as the roads around it, Hong Kong Police Commissioner Steven Lo Wai-chung confirmed.
-The protest was deemed “a riot”: Lo said the demonstration was being considered a “riot.” He added that police had been left with “no choice but to start to use force.” Up to 5,000 police in riot gear were deployed to guard the building. Protesters were seen wearing helmets, goggles and heavy-duty workman’s gloves, and pulling bricks from the sidewalks.
-Debate over the bill was postponed: The city’s legislative council had been due to hold the second reading of the controversial bill Wednesday morning local time, but it was postponed. The bill has been met with widespread opposition, including from the city’s traditionally conservative business community.
-What officials are saying: Despite the mass demonstrations, Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam has refused to withdraw the extradition bill, saying it is needed to plug loopholes to prevent the city from becoming a haven for mainland fugitives. [Source]

When protesters stormed the barricades outside the LegCo building, police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets, leading to at least 72 hospitalizations. Human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have condemned the violence. From The New York Times:

A line of protesters, many of them young people in black T-shirts, repeatedly rushed toward a ring of heavily armored police officers, only to be repelled. The officers lashed out with blows, rubber bullets, beanbag rounds, pepper spray and tear gas.

At times, only a thin metal barrier separated the two groups as the protesters’ front line slowly inched closer to the source of their anger — Hong Kong’s legislature.

One police officer held a giant red sign warning protesters: “Stop charging or we will use force.”

Many of the city’s lawmakers, from both the pro-democracy camp that opposes the extradition legislation and the pro-Beijing majority that supports it, failed to arrive at the council for a scheduled debate on Wednesday morning, after protesters surrounded the complex and blocked traffic. The council later said the debate was postponed until further notice. [Source]

Despite the violence, the protesters in general were commended by observers for their organizational skills and preparation:

The protests have drawn broad and diverse participation from members of Hong Kong society:

In China, news of the protests, which Chief Executive Carrie Lam condemned as “organized riots,” has been censored in the media and online platforms including WeChat and Weibo. Despite the censorship, some internet users have found ways to comment on the situation on the few approved posts online, according to a report by Abacus:

Lam appeared on television in tears, claiming she had made “personal sacrifices” for Hong Kong and comparing the protesters to spoiled children, which elicited a strong response on Twitter:

Cartoonists and others have produced powerful, viral images from the protests:

Based on this original image:

As night fell in Hong Kong, fewer people were on the streets, but police were preparing for further demonstrations in coming days.


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