Hong Kong reopens central government offices after mass protests against extradition Bill

The area outside the chief executive’s office building around 7am on June 18, 2019. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - Hong Kong reopened its central government offices on Tuesday (June 18) that had been blocked off after a historic protest on Sunday calling for leader Carrie Lam to resign over a bill allowing extraditions to China for the first time.

Lam will address the media on Tuesday afternoon, Hong Kong's TVB reported, without saying where it got the information or what the briefing would be about.

The government announced earlier in the day that roads near the Central Government Offices, which is next to Lam's office, had "generally become accessible" and urged staff to return to work.

The Executive Council that Lam oversees will be on recess Tuesday, the government said in a separate statement, adding that arrangements for her normal media session would be announced later.

A smaller protest continued on Monday outside the government complex and on an adjacent road but by Tuesday morning the crowd had gone.

Lam is under pressure to resign after hundreds of thousands of protesters wearing black flooded downtown Hong Kong on Sunday, prompting her to issue a statement apologising for causing "substantial controversies and disputes in society".

Still, China said on Monday it continues to "firmly support" Lam and her government.

Protest leaders want Lam to completely withdraw the extradition bill and resign from office. The dispute has attracted attention around the globe to the embarrassment of China: Beijing has blamed foreigners for provoking the protests, and urged other nations to stop getting involved in what it regards as a domestic issue.

Hong Kong's police on Monday evening dialled back their categorisation of June 12's clashes with protesters near the city's legislative building as a "riot", which has certain legal ramifications.

Dropping the description was among the major demands of Sunday's demonstration.

Only people who threw bricks and wielded metal poles against police officers might have committed riot offenses, police commissioner Stephen Lo told reporters.

"Others who have participated in the same public order event but have not engaged in any violent act need not to worry about committing rioting offences," Lo said.

He added that only five people had been arrested on riot-related offenses and that most protesters were "peaceful."

Lo last week classified afternoon clashes outside the Legislative Council as rioting. Lam herself also used the term in a video statement released by the government.

Hong Kong shares climbed on Tuesday morning to extend the previous day's gains as investors await a Federal Reserve meeting later this week.

The Hang Seng Index rose 0.73 per cent, or 200.10 points, to 27,427.26 by the lunchtime break.

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