Wed, Jun 12, 2019 8:08

Police fire rubber bullets at Hong Kong protesters


Police have fired rubber bullets and tear gas at protesters in Hong Kong where anger at a new extradition bill has spilled over into violence.

Police have fired rubber bullets and tear gas at protesters in Hong Kong where anger at a new extradition bill has spilled over into violence.

Protesters have blocked key roads around government buildings and threw bricks and projectiles at police.

The government is still pushing for the bill which would allow extradition to mainland China and it is expected to pass its final vote on 20 June.

But the Legislative Council (LegCo) has now delayed its second reading.

The pro-Beijing LegCo said Wednesday's scheduled meeting would instead be held at an unspecified "later time".

This is the first time rubber bullets have been used in Hong Kong for decades.

In a repeat of four years ago people flooded major roads and junctions on

Wednesday, dragging barricades onto highways and tying them together. Others

plucked loose bricks from pavements.

After the deadline expired, protesters broke into the forecourt of the

legislature in a bid to breach the building and demonstrators were seen

throwing missiles including metal bars at riot police. An injured policeman

was carried away unconscious.

Police beat back demonstrators first with batons and pepper spray, then

firing rubber bullets and bean bag rounds — small fabric bags filled with

lead pellets — and dozens of rounds of tear gas as they cleared one side of

the surrounded parliament building.

Hong Kong’s police chief Stephen Lo defended his officers, saying they had

shown restraint until “mobsters” tried to storm parliament.

“These violent protesters kept charging at our line of defence, and used

very dangerous weapons, including… throwing metal barricades at us and

throwing bricks,” he said.

– ‘Million’ march –

Many Hong Kongers are incensed that the government ignored a massive march

on Sunday calling for the bill to be scrapped.

“It’s the government who has forced people to escalate their actions, so I

think it’s inevitable for the fight this time to get heated,” said 21-year-

old protester Lau Ka-chun.

Organisers said more than a million people turned out on Sunday to oppose

the proposed law, which would allow Hong Kong to send suspects to other

jurisdictions around the world — including China.

But the record numbers failed to sway Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing leader Carrie

Lam, who has rejected calls to withdraw the bill.

Matthew Cheung, the city’s chief secretary, on Wednesday called on

demonstrators to withdraw.

“I also urge citizens who have gathered to show restraint as much as

possible, disperse peacefully and do not defy the law,” he said in a video


Opposition to the bill has united an unusually wide cross-section of the

city from influential businesses and lawyers, to religious groups, student

unions and workers.

Western nations have criticised the plans while Beijing has voiced


Opponents are fearful the law would entangle people in the mainland’s

opaque courts, leaving them vulnerable to a justice system seen as acting at

the behest of the Chinese Communist Party.

– ‘Hong Kong will bleed’ –

Protesters vowed to stay on the streets until the bill is abandoned.

“Stalling is not our ultimate goal. We need them to consider scrapping

it,” said student Charles Lee, 23. “Clashes are unavoidable if they adopt

this attitude towards their citizens.”

Lawmakers had been due to debate the bill on Wednesday morning in the

city’s legislature, which is dominated by Beijing loyalists, with a final

vote expected on June 20.

It was not announced when the next meeting on the bill would be held.

“The only responsible thing to do now is for Carrie Lam to withdraw the

evil bill, or at least to shelve it in order to solve the crisis,” said pro-

democracy lawmaker Fernando Cheung.

Hong Kong’s leaders say the proposed law is needed to plug loopholes and to

stop the city being a sanctuary for fugitives, and that safeguards are in

place to ensure that political critics of Beijing will not be targeted.

But many Hong Kongers have little faith in the government’s assurances

after years of heightened fears that a resurgent Beijing is trying to quash

the city’s unique freedoms and culture — despite a 50-year agreement between

Hong Kong’s former colonial ruler, Britain, and China that means the city is

guaranteed freedoms unseen on the Chinese mainland.

Hong Kong’s stock market sank nearly 1.8 percent on Wednesday in the city-

wide turmoil.