Violent clashes broke out in Hong Kong on Wednesday as police tried to control demonstrators from storming the city’s Parliament. Hong Kong police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at protestors staging demonstrations against an extradition bill, which allows people to be sent to China for trials, AFP reported.
Critics fear that the Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation [Amendment] Bill, 2019, that had been proposed by the Government of Hong Kong would cause the city to open itself to the Chinese law and that people from Hong Kong may become subject to a different legal system, Al Jazeera reported.
Hong Kong is part of China under the “one country, two systems” policy that gave political and legal autonomy to the city.
The Hong Kong government said that the debate on the bill that was set to take place in the city’s Legislative Council on Wednesday would be delayed until further notice, according to Reuters. Legislators are likely to vote on the bill by next week, the head of Hong Kong’s legislature said.
Thousands of protestors, mainly young people dressed in black, demanded the Beijing-supported law to be scrapped. The demonstrators had given the government deadline till 3 pm on Wednesday to reject the controversial bill. Clashes broke out after the deadline passed.
The protests were touted as one of the worst episodes of political violence the city has seen in years. Angry protestors threw bricks, bottles, and umbrellas at the police as clashes intensified on Wednesday afternoon.
One police official held a sign that read, “Stop charging or we will use force”. The use of tear gas and nonlethal projectiles proved to be an example of the government’s determination to keep the legislature from being overrun, The New York Times reported.
Police chief Stephen Lo warned protestors to “stop the violence” and asked residents to steer clear from a “riot situation”. He also confirmed that the police personnel were using plastic bullets, Reuters reported.
Demonstrators rallied around Lung Wo Road, blocking a main arterial road near the offices of Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam.
Small business also shut shop on Wednesday in solidarity with the protestors. A hotel chain offered accommodation to the demonstrators for free. Some companies allowed its employees to leave early to join the protests, while union leaders urged members to come up with ways to participate without calling a strike.