Protesters, police fight pitched battles after historic ‘million-strong’ march against Hong Kong’s controversial extradition bill turns violent
- Officers, protesters suffer injuries, some needing hospital treatment, as police use batons and pepper spray to beat back mob of masked demonstrators
- Hours earlier peaceful mass rally drew historic numbers onto the streets to oppose government’s controversial extradition bill
Hundreds of protesters started gathering around the legislature after the main mass rally, which organisers claimed was joined by more than 1 million people, came to an end at around 10pm.
While a large police contingent guarded the compound, two pro-independence groups, Student Localism and the Students Independent Union, called on the protesters to stay after the rally and storm the legislature.
At around midnight, hundreds of them, many wearing masks, dashed towards the police lines, aiming to force their way into the legislature.
The protesters took over the metal barricades surrounding the building and used them to attack police trying to push them back.
In the ensuing chaos, they hurled bottles at officers who responded with batons and pepper spray. Some protesters were wrestled to the ground and taken away.
Video footage showed at least one officer with a bleeding face as he was rushed to safety by his colleagues. A protester was also shown bleeding from his face.
The chaos lasted for about 30 minutes.
Riot police were brought in, and they had largely controlled or cleared out the demonstration area at Legco at 12.30am, issuing repeated warnings for those still around to leave.
But the stand-off continued, and by 1am, diehard protesters had reorganised themselves to take over Lung Wo Road, heavily barricading the area that was the scene of bigger clashes during the 2014 Occupy movement for greater democracy.
Masks were handed out to those joining their ranks for the confrontation.
Police then began charging the protest lines, beating them back and scattering them in different directions.
A 20-year-old protester, surnamed Cheng, had joined the march with five friends but lost contact with them in the melee.
“I’m concerned about them and about myself,” he said. “But I’m even more concerned about the extradition bill.”
By 2am, the last of the protesters had been driven all the way back to Gloucester Road in Wan Chai, where they began a new stand-off with police outside Immigration Tower.
Police corralled the last holdouts together, hemming them in between Gloucester Rd and the wall of the Church of Jesus Christ, next to old Wan Chai police station.
Officers said the protesters had taken part in an illegal assembly and began taking the names of those present. Only those carrying illegal items or who were already wanted by police were detained immediately.
Police chief Stephen Lo Wai-chung, meanwhile, visited three injured officers at Queen Mary Hospital in Pok Fu Lam at about 2.30am.
He strongly condemned the violence by protesters, who he said had damaged the tradition of peaceful demonstrations and vowed that the force would pursue all those who had taken part.
“If they really have ideals and want Hong Kong to be good, can they help by doing this tonight?” he asked, referring to the violence and “meaningless” act of charging the Legco complex.
Lo said the march was generally conducted peacefully apart from some radical and violent protesters who constantly provoked officers and tried to get other marchers to charge police lines.
When asked about police deployment on Wednesday when the second reading of the contentious bill would resume in Legco, Lo said the force would prepare enough manpower.
Earlier on Sunday, the Civil Human Rights Front declared that 1.03 million people had taken part in the mass rally, double the turnout of the 2003 protest against the government’s push for national security legislation.
This time they were out to oppose the bill which would allow the transfer of fugitives to jurisdictions with which Hong Kong has no extradition deal, including mainland China.