Protesters rallying against extradition bill in Hong Kong. (Image by May James / Shutterstock.com)

Central Hong Kong ravaged by chaos as protestors clash with police, deface Beijing Liaison Office

The anger over the Hong Kong government’s controversial extradition Bill is far from being quelled as protestors battled the police in late-night clashes that took place in the heart of the city on Sun (21 Jun).

South China Morning Post reported that the Hong Kong police’s Special Tactical Squad deployed tear gas and rubber bullets against protestors in black — who retaliated with umbrellas, bottles, bricks and poles — at the main road near the Hong Kong-Macau Ferry Terminal.

Protestors had reportedly deviated from the original route of their march — from Causeway Bay to Wan Chai where the police headquarters is situated — earlier during the day on Sun as many had gone to Admiralty, Central and Sheung Wan respectively to demonstrate.

The Beijing Liaison Office was not spared from the protestors’ wrath as they threw eggs at and spray-painted graffiti on the office walls, including the national emblem.

One protestor, however, told Reuters that the line was drawn at breaking into the office, as doing so “would be the death of Hong Kong”.

A Hong Kong government spokesperson condemned the protestors’ act of “maliciously besieging and storming” the “Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (CPGLO)” in a statement on Sun.

“The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government strongly condemns the protesters who blatantly challenged the national sovereignty by maliciously besieging and storming the CPGLO building as well as defacing the national emblem,” said the spokesperson, adding that the Office “has constitutional functions”.

“The HKSAR Government will deal with these acts in a serious manner in accordance with the law,” the spokesperson added.

The spokesperson also highlighted an incident where dangerous goods and offensive weapons including strong explosives and petrol bombs were discovered by the police in relation to the protests, following which three men were arrested in what Superintendent Alick McWhirter of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit dubbed as “the largest seizure we have ever come across in Hong Kong”, as reported by SCMP on Sat (20 Jul).

The spokesperson also expressed the Hong Kong government’s concern over the act of “a small number of radicals” who had encouraged the masses to carry out illegal acts far beyond the threshold of peaceful marches, including “charging police cordon lines, besieging the Police Headquarters and blocking roads”.

“Such acts threaten the law and order in the SAR and “one country, two systems”. It is totally unacceptable to the society,” the spokesperson added.

Civil Human Rights Front, the organiser of the rally on Sun, estimated that around 430,000 people participated in the march, while police gave an approximate figure of 138,000 at most.

Both police and the city’s government have issued statements on Mon (22 Jul) condemning the violence that took place during the protests on Sun.

“After the conclusion of a public procession on Hong Kong Island last night, some protesters charged Police’s cordon lines in the vicinity of Sheung Wan. They hurled bricks, smoke grenades, petrol bombs and set fires etc. Some police officers were injured in the incident.

“Meanwhile, assault cases also happened in Yuen Long. Some people attacked commuters at the platforms of the Yuen Long MTR Station and train compartments, resulting in multiple injuries.

“Police do not tolerate any violent behaviours. Police are now actively following up the two incidents in order to bring the offenders to justice,” said Hong Kong police in a statement today.

A spokesperson for the Hong Kong government said that the violent turn taken by the protestors on Sun was “absolutely unacceptable to Hong Kong as a society that observes the rule of law”.

“The SAR Government strongly condemns any violence and will seriously take enforcement actions,” the spokesperson added.

Carrie Lam intends to finish her five-year term, stays silent on withdrawing extradition Bill

Meanwhile, The Sydney Morning Herald‘s China Correspondent reported earlier on 15 Jul that Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam has expressed her intention to complete her five-year term and to subsequently leave the post, in addition to making efforts to bridge the gap between her administration and the youth of Hong Kong as a result of the anti-extradition Bill protests.

After seismic clashes between protestors and the police that rocked Hong Kong for weeks, Lam announced that the controversial extradition Bill that sparked the protests is now “dead”.

Chairing the Executive Council meeting on 9 Jul, she said: “I have almost immediately put a stop to the (bill) amendment exercise, but there are still lingering doubts about the government’s sincerity, or worries whether the government will restart the process in the legislative council, so I reiterate here: There is no such plan, the bill is dead.”

“Our work on the extradition bill amendment is a complete failure,” she told reporters during a news conference.

Lam also urged “all the people who were involved in the activities over the past month — whether police officers or protestors — to “submit materials to this independent investigation committee,” and gave the assurance that all such information will be treated as confidential.

“I understand that the responses I’ve made so far may not meet all of the requests and requirements made by the protestors. This is not about me or myself or my dignity. This is to strike balance between the Hong Kong government [and the protestors], and I believe what I’ve suggested is feasible and practical,” she said.

“So I hope that everybody will give a chance to the Hong Kong SAR government, to remain calm and let us walk out of this troublesome situation, and let us learn our lesson in the face of large-scale public events.”

“Personally, I take full responsibility of what happened,” said Beijing-backed Lam.

Lam, however, remains mum about any prospects of withdrawing the Bill completely.

An unnamed source reportedly told Financial Times that Beijing refuses to allow Lam’s resignation, as “No one else can clean up the mess and no one else wants the job.”

The protests that swept across Hong Kong in recent weeks arose out of concerns 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 extradition Bill be passed, as certain factions remain sceptical of Beijing’s capacity to refrain from abusing the extradition arrangements.