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Protests shut down HK

June 13, 2019

HONG Kong: Tens of thousands of protesters paralyzed central Hong Kong on Wednesday, blocking major roads in a defiant show of strength against government plans to allow extraditions to China.

Black-clad demonstrators, most of them young people and students, surrounded government offices, bringing traffic to a standstill as they called on authorities to scrap the Beijing-backed law.

The massive protests prompted the delay in legislative session on a contentious extradition bill as thousands of protesters amassed to block entry to key buildings, particularly the legislative building, out of concern the measure signaled greater Chinese control and further erosion of civil liberties in the semi autonomous territory.

The overwhelmingly young crowd of demonstrators filled nearby streets, overturned barriers and tussled with police outside the government headquarters and offices of the Legislative Council.

MASSIVE RALLY Protesters occupy the roads near the Legislative Council and government headquarters in Hong Kong. The protests literally shutdown the island-state, as businesses were disrupted and movement of people and goods was severely affected. AFP PHOTO

An estimated 200,000 protesters stayed near the entrance of the parliament building, where the debate for the extradition bill was scheduled.

Another 300,000 have blocked major arteries in the island-state, including the Tsim Tsa Chui ferry station going to the other half of Hong Kong in Kowloon.

A statement from the government’s press service said the session of the Hong Kong’s Legislative Council that was scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. would be “changed to a later time to be determined” by the council secretariat. Council members would be notified of the time of the meeting later, the statement said.

Rows of riot police were far outnumbered by protesters — many of whom wore face masks, helmets or goggles — just hours ahead of a scheduled debate in the city’s legislature.

By late morning, with crowds continuing to swell, officials in the Legislative Council said they would delay the second reading of the bill “to a later date.”

Some protesters deliberately stopped their cars in the middle of one key artery and jumped out, blocking the road.

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.

Matthew Cheung, Hong Kong chief secretary, called on demonstrators to unblock key arteries and 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 message.

Meanwhile, Beijing reaffirmed that without powerful interference from foreign forces, especially the United States, opposition groups would not have the capability to enact such violent incidents

According to a report by Hong Kong-based media outlet takungpao.com, opposition groups against the extradition law amendment, which could allow the Chinese mainland to extradite criminals from Hong Kong, organized protesters to violently storm the Legislative Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

“Marco,” a protester, said he hoped the action would persuade Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s administration to shelve the proposed amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance.

“We want the government to just set the legislation aside and not bring it back,” he said.

A fellow protester who gave her name as “King” said the protest was a watershed moment for Hong Kong’s young generation, who face difficult job prospects and skyrocketing housing prices.

“We have to stand up for our rights or they will be taken away,” she said.

The reluctance of protesters to be identified by their full names and professions — many wore surgical masks to obscure their facial features — reflected an increasingly hard-line approach to civil unrest by the authorities. Such actions are never tolerated in mainland China, and Hong Kong residents can face travel bans and other repercussions if they cross the border.

AP/AFP

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