Hong Kong with over a million people on the street in protest. (Image by Paul Wong / Shutterstock.com)

Hong Kong’s legislature postpones debate on extradition bill for third time following “violent” clashes between police and protesters

Hong Kong’s lawmakers have postponed a reading of the controversial extradition bill for the third time on Thu (13 Jun) in the wake of clashes between the police and the tens of thousands of protesters in Admiralty a day before.

South China Morning Post reported that a circular has been issued by the secretariat on behalf of president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen, which stated that “Members will be notified of the time of the meeting once it is determined by the president”.

Legco’s rule book stipulates that the president of the legislature is required to notify lawmakers prior to convening a meeting. However, it is not stated how much time should be given before the meeting is convened, according to SCMP.

Concerns were raised over the scope of powers that will be granted upon certain jurisdictions Hong Kong decides to extradite crime suspects to – particularly mainland China – should the amendment bill be passed, as certain factions remain sceptical of Beijing’s capacity to refrain from abusing the extradition arrangements.

Amnesty International warns that the proposed legislation “would extend the ability of the mainland authorities to target critics, human rights activists, journalists, NGO workers and anyone else in Hong Kong”.

Raymond Chan Chi-chuen of the pro-democracy party People Power told SCMP that while a delay may be helpful in the short term, “it will not work, as long as they don’t retract the bill”.

“People are ready for further action,” said Chan.

Another pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching welcomed the delay, saying that it is “the right thing to do” after the mass protests, according to The New York Times.

The protests on Wed witnessed police firing tear gas, rubber bullets, and rounds of beanbags at protesters outside Hong Kong’s legislature.

Police chief Stephen Lo Wai-ching told SCMP that the officers on the ground responded to the “riot” when the protesters stormed police lines.

The situation on the third day of the protest was reminiscent of the 79-day Occupy protest in 2014, which was the last time tear gas was used in Hong Kong on protesters.

Tear gas was reportedly deployed little after 3:30pm to disperse protesters in Tim Wa Avenue, Tim Mei Avenue, Lung Wo Road and Harcourt Road.

Reports also say that protesters came prepared with masks and other protective gear as well as sharpened metal bars, leading some to suggest that the protesters had intended for the situation to escalate, while others argued that people in Hong Kong have merely learnt to prepare themselves for the worst from their past experience with the police.

Hong Kong police’s use of excessive force against “overwhelmingly peaceful protesters” a “violation of international law”: Amnesty International

The excessive use of force deployed by the police against the protesters was strongly condemned by human rights activists and organisations including Amnesty International.

Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong Man-Kei Tam in a statement on Wed said: “The ugly scenes of police using tear gas and pepper spray against overwhelmingly peaceful protesters is a violation of international law.”

“Police have a duty to maintain public order, but in doing so they may use force only when strictly necessary. Hong Kong’s police have today failed to live up to this standard,” he added.

Stating that the riot police had used “the violent acts of a small minority as a pretext to use excessive force against the vast majority of peaceful protesters”, Tam warned that methods used to disperse the crowds such as tear gas and projectiles like rubber bullets are notoriously inaccurate and indiscriminate, and can result in serious injury and even death”.

“This excessive response from police is fuelling tensions and is likely to contribute to worsening violence, rather than end it. We urge the Hong Kong police not to repeat such abuses against peaceful protesters, and instead ensure people can legitimately exercise their rights,” he reiterated.

Amnesty International UK’s Military, Security and Police Programme Director Oliver Feeley-Sprague observed that CS gas canisters produced by British defence contractor Chemring Defence were purportedly used by the police against the protesters, based on photographs shared on social media.

“The use of tear gas against civilians is shocking, and we want the UK Government to prevent any further supplies of crowd control equipment supplied to Hong Kong that risks being used to threaten legitimate protests.

“The world is watching closely what is happening in Hong Kong, and we urge the authorities there to exercise restraint,” added Feeley-Sprague.

Tear gas and rubber bullets were allegedly not the only means of excessive force unleashed on peaceful protesters by the police, as seen in viral videos purportedly depicting members of the force inflicting physical violence on unarmed individuals, such as one that was posted by a Facebook page called HongKonger Secrets.

Netizens expressed their shock against the brutal and disproportionate treatment of the unarmed protester by the group of policemen in the video: