Legco riot: Rubber bullets, bean-bag rounds and tear gas disperse thousands of protesters

Top News | Jane Cheung and Phoenix Un 13 Jun 2019

Police fired rounds of rubber bullets, bean bags and tear gas at protesters who tried to barge into the heavily guarded Legislative Council Complex in a day of violence that paralyzed the heart of Hong Kong Island.

At least 22 people were injured, including a Radio Television Hong Kong contract driver, in the protest against the fugitive amendment bill. It was not immediately known if anyone was injured by rubber bullets, students at an elite school reported on social media that a teacher had been hit in the eye.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor last night strongly condemned the "riot behaviors" of the protesters. "All of us saw the heartbreaking scenes in the area near Admiralty. These riot behaviors that destroyed peace in society and defied the law are unacceptable to any civilized society with rule of law," she said in a three-minute video. "It is very clear that this was not a peaceful assembly, but an open, organized riot."

She said some people ignored citizens' safety and occupied carriageways to paralyze morning traffic, which severely affected the operation of the society. "Starting from the afternoon, there were even people challenging police cordons and conducting dangerous behaviors that could cause death, including setting a fire and attacking police with sharp iron bars and bricks.

"This has destroyed public facilities nearby and threatened the safety of general citizens, young people who would like to express opinions, journalists, police officers and civil servants."

Police managed to clear all roads leading to the Central Government Offices and the Legislative Council building by nightfall, but several thousand protesters continued to block Connaught Road Central and Pedder Street by late evening and several hundred gathered near police headquarters in Wan Chai, with a large number of police in riot gear attempting disperse them as numbers grew.

Admiralty MTR Station was closed from 8.30pm with trains not stopping there following a request by police. This followed a similar temporary closure in the morning.

Due to the clashes and major roads linking the Legco being blocked, the debate on the fugitive amendment bill was called off at 6pm. Shortly before 11am, the Legco Secretariat notified lawmakers that the meeting, originally scheduled to begin at 11am, would be postponed until further notice.

It was not known if it would resume today, as Legco president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen on Tuesday said the meeting would last through every weekday until next Thursday.

The sudden escalation in violence came after messages were posted on internet chat platforms in the morning, setting a deadline for the chief executive to withdraw or scrap the extradition bill by 3pm yesterday.

At 3.15pm, thousands of protesters wearing masks, raincoats and goggles, and shielding themselves with umbrellas, tried to break through the police cordon at several spots outside Legco, including Tim Mei Avenue, Tim Wa Avenue and Lung Wui Road, stacking up metal fences and hurling objects at police as they advanced.

They managed to break through the cordons and surged into the Legco protest area, which has been sealed off since Tuesday.

Police - all in protective gear - pushed back, first using batons and pepper spray against the protesters. Then the bean bag rounds were used.

At about 3.30pm, police fired the first canister of tear gas at the protest area just meters outside the Legco exit. An unknown number of rubber bullets were fired - for the first time - at the protesters.

At 4.45pm, police started to disperse protesters on Lung Wui Road and Lung Wo Road, pushing them toward Central Pier, firing at least 30 rounds of tear gas, several consecutive shots at a time.

Then officers faced protesters who had retreated to Harcourt Road and fired at least 20 rounds of tear gas in an attempt to disperse the crowd.

Many protesters used umbrellas as shields and covered the tear gas canisters on the ground. Several picked up the canisters and hurled them back at police.

Harcourt Road was cleared by 6pm as protesters retreated to Cotton Tree Drive.

Besides the RTHK drive, at least 21 other people were injured, with 11 men and three women sent to Queen Mary Hospital and four men and three women - believed to be police officers - to Ruttonjee Hospital.

Several protesters, who seemed to be injured, were taken away by police.

Thousands of people stayed overnight in Tamar Park, with the number of protesters increasing in the morning.

Before 8am, some rushed onto Lung Wo Road and trapped vehicles there, attacking a police car before being stopped by others.

Bricks on the pedestrian pavement were dug up and used to build walls in traffic lanes.

About half an hour later, crowds spilled onto Harcourt Road, halting traffic in all six lanes.

Police used pepper spray and held up red flags during clashes, as protesters tried to push metal fences towards the Legislative Council.

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