HONG KONG (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG, WASHINGTON POST) - Hong Kong authorities arrested 11 people during protests against an extradition Bill that would allow people to be sent to China for trial, police chief Stephen Lo said on Thursday (June 13).
Mr Lo, speaking at a press briefing, said 22 police officers were injured in the protests that turned violent on Wednesday as police fired rubber bullets, tear gas and pepper spray.
Images beamed from the protest on Wednesday (June 12) showed police beating back protesters with batons and crowds running from clouds of tear gas near some of the world’s most recognisable skyscrapers, in an area home to multinational companies, luxury hotels, banks and the United States Consulate.
Hong Kong’s Hospital Authority confirmed that 72 people had been injured.
At the heart of the violence is the contentious extradition Bill, which will cover Hong Kong residents and foreign and Chinese nationals living or travelling through the city, allowing extraditions to China. The Bill has sparked concern that it may threaten the rule of law that underpins Hong Kong’s international financial status.
Protests around the city’s legislature on Wednesday forced the postponement of debate on the extradition Bill.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam condemned the violence and urged a swift restoration of order. She also vowed to press ahead with the legislation despite the reservations about it, including within the business community.
Hong Kong’s benchmark stock exchange slid as much as 1.5 per cent on Thursday before closing down 0.1 per cent, extending losses from the previous day.
Most roads in the business district were open on Thursday, but some shops and offices were closed and banks, including Standard Chartered, Bank of China and DBS, said they had suspended branch services in the area.
Mr Lo said officers had acted in accordance with guidelines on Wednesday and had shot 150 rounds of tear gas at protesters. He said 22 police had been injured.
“I consider our officers are acting in accordance with guidelines,” said Mr Lo at the news conference. “We have absolutely no bad intention to cause trouble to anyone. We are just doing our duty.”
Mr Lo added that the Hong Kong police did not have any assistance or direction from the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
On Thursday, a small crowd of people wearing masks to hide their identities gathered at midday in the city centre while police with pepper spray canisters briefly amassed in the legislature building nearby. But the area remained largely calm.
Police with helmets and shields blocked overhead walkways and plainclothes officers checked commuters’ identity cards.
“We will be back when, and if, it comes back for discussion again,” said protester Stephen Chan, a 20-year-old university student. “We just want to preserve our energy now.”