Hong Kong protests over China extradition bill
At least two people are in serious condition in Hong Kong hospitals after a long day and night of violence between police and protesters.
An estimated 5,000 riot police fired tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets and bean bags at tens of thousands of protesters as they forcibly cleared streets around the city's Legislative Council in Admiralty.
Confrontations went late into the night as crowds of mostly young, college-aged protesters were pushed back from the Legislative Council complex towards the city's Central district.
At least 79 people were injured in the violence, with two remaining in serious condition, according to a spokesman for Hong Kong's information bureau.
There was an extremely heavy police presence around the Legislative Council building and the city's Admiralty area Thursday morning. It remained unclear whether lawmakers would attempt to restart a second reading of a hugely controversial extradition bill with China that sparked the protests, amid rumors the debate may be suspended.
Central government offices next door to the legislature were closed Thursday and Friday, according to a statement.
Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters in Hong Kong on Wednesday, hours after tens of thousands of mostly young people surrounded the city's government headquarters and postponed the debate over a controversial bill that would allow fugitives to be extradited to China.
We're wrapping up our live coverage for the day, but keep reading CNN for more on the protests.
Here's what happened Wednesday in Hong Kong:
- Violent clashes erupted: Rubber bullets, pepper spray and hand-thrown tear gas were used to push back protesters who had occupied the city's main thoroughfare near the government headquarters, as well as the roads around it, Hong Kong Police Commissioner Steven Lo Wai-chung confirmed.
- The protest was deemed "a riot": Lo said the demonstration was being considered a "riot." He added that police had been left with "no choice but to start to use force." Up to 5,000 police in riot gear were deployed to guard the building. Protesters were seen wearing helmets, goggles and heavy-duty workman's gloves, and pulling bricks from the sidewalks.
- Debate over the bill was postponed: The city's legislative council had been due to hold the second reading of the controversial bill Wednesday morning local time, but it was postponed. The bill has been met with widespread opposition, including from the city's traditionally conservative business community.
- What officials are saying: Despite the mass demonstrations, Hong Kong's leader Carrie Lam has refused to withdraw the extradition bill, saying it is needed to plug loopholes to prevent the city from becoming a haven for mainland fugitives.
President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he hopes things work out between the Chinese central government and Hong Kong demonstrators protesting changes to an extradition bill.
“I looked today and that really is a million people. A lot of times people talk about, they had 2,000 people but it was really 1,000 or it was 200. I see it all the time … but when you look at this demonstration, they said it was a million people. That was a million people,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office.
“That was as big a demonstration as I’ve ever seen, so I hope it all works out for China and for Hong Kong,” he continued.
Asked if protesters are sending a message to China with these demonstrations, Trump said, “I don’t know what they’re sending them. That’s a demonstration that they’re having. I understand the reason for the demonstration, but I’m sure they’ll be able to work it out. I hope they’ll be able to work it out with China."
At least 72 people have been injured in Hong Kong protests over the bill.
The proposed law would allow Hong Kong to extradite fugitives to territories where it doesn't have formal extradition deals, including mainland China, Taiwan and Macau.
Opponents of the bill say it could mean democracy activists, journalists and foreign business owners could be surrendered to mainland China.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam is standing firm in her support for the proposed extradition bill despite mounting pressure and death threats.
A little about Lam: Lam was chosen as the fourth Hong Kong chief executive in 2017 by a tiny election committee, becoming the city's first female leader. Following the election, however, protestors argued the decision saying it was a "selection rather than an election."
Why she supports the bill: Now, amid more turmoil, Lam admits that the new bill is controversial, but said safeguards have been added to the bill to protect human rights. These comments have done nothing to quell opposition.
Lam said the bill is needed to plug legal loopholes and prevent Hong Kong from becoming a haven for fugitives. Critics of the bill fear it will allow China to extradite to the mainland to face trial. The bill is expected to get a final vote as early as next Thursday.
Lam addressed citizens in a pre-recorded address Wednesday, where she "condemned" the actions of protesters and defended the actions of the police.
"These are no longer peaceful demonstrations. They are planned and intentional riots." Lam said, adding that "They have done dangerous and fatal actions, such as, setting things on fire, using sharp metal sticks and throwing bricks to attacking the police.
Lam and the Hong Kong government had not acknowledged the divided opinion of amendments to the extradition bill until today. But, Lam did say she understood "the bill has aroused strong opinions from both sides."
At least 72 people have been treated at hospitals for injuries sustained in the Hong Kong protests, a spokesperson for the Hong Kong Information Bureau tells CNN.
The ages of the injured range from 15 to 66 years old.
Of the 72 injured, 50 are male and 22 are female.
- 2 males are in serious condition
- 14 males in stable condition
- 5 females in stable condition
- The condition of 10 people is unknown
There have not been any deaths, the spokesperson said. It is unknown if any of the injured are police.
Amnesty International said police's use of forces against protesters in Hong Kong is "a violation of international law," adding that officers have "taken advantage of the violent acts of a small minority as a pretext to use excessive force against the vast majority."
Earlier today, police used tear gas and rubber bullets to push back against protesters rallying against a controversial extradition bill.
“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," Man-Kei Tam, Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong, said in a statement.
The statement continued:
“The police have taken advantage of the violent acts of a small minority as a pretext to use excessive force against the vast majority of peaceful protesters.
Tear gas and projectiles like rubber bullets are notoriously inaccurate and indiscriminate and can result in serious injury and even death. They should only ever be used in a targeted response to specific acts of violence and never to disperse peaceful protesters.
This excessive response from police is fueling 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. We also remind police that using force against protesters already brought under control is unlawful.”
The massive protests in Hong Kong have centered on a controversial extradition bill.
The proposed law would allow Hong Kong to extradite fugitives to territories where it doesn't have formal extradition deals — including mainland China.
Critics believe the bill would will leave anyone on Hong Kong soil vulnerable to being grabbed by Chinese authorities. But supporters said it will prevent the city from becoming a haven for mainland fugitives.
Here's a look at the parties on both sides:
Who's against the bill
- Civil rights activists: Critics say the bill will leave anyone on Hong Kong soil vulnerable to being grabbed by the Chinese authorities for political reasons or inadvertent business offenses and undermine the city's semi-autonomous legal system.
- Businesses and trade unions: More than 100 firms said they would shut doors Wednesday to protest the bill and allow employees to join a rally outside the legislature. Trade unions have also suggested they might call on members to stop work in protest.
- Journalists: Earlier this year, the Hong Kong Journalists Association said in a statement that the amendment would "not only threaten the safety of journalists but also have a chilling effect on the freedom of expression in Hong Kong."
- Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Taiwan's Foreign Minister Joseph Wu tweeted in support of the anti-extradition protests: "I stand shoulder to shoulder with the hundreds of thousands in #HongKong fighting the extradition bill & for rule of law. Please know you are not alone. #Taiwan is with you! The will of the people will prevail!"
- European and US agencies: Representatives from the European Union have met with Hong Long leaders and expressed concern over the bill. Members of the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China have also spoken out against the bill, warning it could "negatively impact the relationship between the United States and Hong Kong."
And who's for it
- Hong Kong's leader: Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has refused to withdraw the extradition bill, saying it is needed to plug loopholes to prevent the city from becoming a haven for mainland fugitives.
- China's Foreign Ministry: Chinese officials have supported the Hong Kong government as it attempts to table to the bill in Parliament.