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Riot police in Hong Kong fired rubber bullets and tear gas at demonstrators who flung plastic bottles Wednesday as protests against an extradition bill that would permit people to be sent to mainland China for trial turned to violence.
Police tried to stop the demonstrators from storming the city’s parliament, while tens of thousands of people blocked main arteries in a show of strength against government plans to allow the extraditions.
Ambulances sped towards the protest area as panic spread through the crowd, many people trying to flee the blinding tear gas.
Protesters “must stop the violence,” police chief Stephen Lo said, warning people to stay away from a “riot situation.”
The protesters — most of them young people clad in black — had set up barricades as they prepared to occupy of the area, in scenes reminiscent of pro-democracy “Occupy” protests in the former
British colony in 2014.
“Didn’t we say at the end of the Umbrella movement we would be back?” pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo said, referring to the name often used for the 2014 demonstrations, whose symbol was a yellow umbrella.
“Now we are back!” she yelled as supporters echoed her words, according to Reuters.
On Sunday, opposition to the Beijing-backed bill triggered Hong Kong’s biggest political demonstration since its handover from British to Chinese rule in 1997 under a “once country, two systems” deal guaranteeing it special autonomy.
However, many accuse China of rampant meddling since, including obstruction of democratic reforms, interference with local elections and of being behind the disappearance of five Hong Kong-based booksellers who specialized in works critical of Chinese leaders.
The government said debate on the bill that was expected to take place in the Legislative Council on Wednesday would be delayed until further notice. The legislature is controlled by a pro-Beijing majority.
“We won’t leave till they scrap the law. Carrie Lam has underestimated us. We won’t let her get away with this,” said one young man, referring to the embattled Hong Kong chief executive.
Meanwhile, China reiterated its support for the legislation.
“Any actions that harm Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability are opposed by mainstream public opinion in Hong Kong,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters.
Asked about rumors that more Chinese security forces will be dispatched to Hong Kong, Geng said that was “fake news.”
With Post Wires
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