Hong Kong on Thursday postponed the legislative debate on the controversial extradition Bill for a second day, after a massive rally that witnessed violent clashes between protesters and the police on Wednesday. “The Legislative Council will not hold a session today to debate the Bill”, said a notice to lawmakers, without elaborating further.
More than a hundred protesters were seen lingering on Hong Kong’s streets on Thursday morning as heavy rain fell. Some of them turned up at the Legislative Council complex at Admiralty before 11am to clear debris left behind from the protests overnight but riot police turned up and lined up before them. Tensions spiked for a while before the officers left. The protesters then resumed clearing debris while others clustered around Legislative Council complex.
Security remained tight and police reopened several roads in the affected area, including Harcourt Road and Queensway.
The Civil Human Rights Front, a pro-democracy coalition which acted as the unofficial organizer of the demonstrations, had said late Wednesday that protests would continue until the government withdrew the Bill.
On Wednesday night, hundreds of young protesters took over roads in Central, paralyzing traffic. Another huge group of protesters confronted the police in Admiralty on Queensway until about 2am, when they dispersed.
Piles of rubbish and debris used as makeshift barriers by the protesters were left on the roads and were cleared overnight to allow vehicles to pass.
The protesters were demanding that Chief Executive Carrie Lam back down from a controversial extradition Bill that would allow Hong Kong to convey fugitives to the mainland to stand trial. Critics of the Bill pointed to Beijing's opaque legal system and said the Bill could be used to target political opponents of China.
Mrs Lam has said that the Bill has enough safeguards and has vowed to push on, saying in a somber video address on Wednesday that the protesters had orchestrated a riot, an offence that carries a 10-year jail term.
What began as a largely peaceful rally outside the Legislative Council (LegCo) on Wednesday morning turned chaotic in the afternoon as tens of thousands of protesters charged at the police using the advance and retreat strategy reminiscent of the 2014 “occupy” movement against Chinese political reforms. They hurled water bottles and other items at police.
To contain the crowd, the police had at first used batons and pepper spray, but they later fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters, many of whom wore black, face masks, goggles and helmets.
Many protesters fled to nearby office buildings and a shopping mall to take cover, as shops in the mall hastily shuttered. The upmarket Pacific Place mall, close to the LegCo building, said in a notice that it would be shut on Thursday for safety reasons.