Dozens wounded on a day when rage exploded in heart of Hong KongLocal | 12 Jun 2019 6:58 pm
Just hours after the embattled administration of Carrie Lam postponed a legislative session meant to wrestle with amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance early today, thousands of protesters who had besieged the Legislative Council and the Central Government Offices in Tamar, clashed with armed police who responded with force, firing multiple rounds of rubber bullets, bean bag rounds, showers of tear gas, and repeat baton charges.
Protesters – many of them youths wearing black – who protected themselves with goggles, construction helmets, umbrellas, ordinary face masks, bottles of water, gloves, and cling wrap, fled the strong police response and some suffered injuries in the see-saw clashes that lasted well into the late evening.
Initially, at about 8:00 am, they poured on to Lung Wo Road and then Harcourt Road.
Some were fearful, others were simply angry at the proposed legislation and the government's dismissive attitude to widespread public concerns and the attempt to fast-track the amendment to the fugitives law today without lawmaker scrutiny.
Reports said at least 22 protesters, among them 12 men, suffered injuries. Ambulances were seen on Harcourt Road.
Police Commissioner Stephen Lo Wai-chung justified the tactics, calling the protests a riot. This seemed to suggest that those arrested and charged could face lengthy jail terms.
But first, Lo called it a "disturbance'' in Cantonese, only to be corrected later by a police spokesman, who said he meant, "riot.''
Civil Human Rights Front, which organized the steet march that drew more than a million on Sunday, strongly condemned the use of lethal weapons by police.
Thousands of agitated protesters had tried to breach metal barriers manned by police at several sites outside Legco. On occasion, protesters were seen hurling objects at police. Some protesters fell into the grip of advancing police and at least one was seen being dragged by his feet on the road.
The government said protesters "used sharpened iron poles and bricks to attack police officers.''
Not every protester was involved in such violence.
Government-funded broadcaster RTHK said a driver was injured in the head and was sent to Queen Mary Hospital in an unconscious state.
Police managed to gain ground on Harcourt Road by firing tear gas rounds continuously. They also cleared Cotton Tree Drive as dusk fell. Earlier, police cleared Tim Wa Avenue.
From early morning, thousands had descended on Lung Wo Road, Tim Mei Avenue, Harcourt Road and Gloucester Road amonf other locations.
From 6:45pm the exit A at Admiralty station was shut, while exit B, C, and D remained open for those entering the station.
The government said in a statement that "a number of protesters had used very dangerous weapons and a high level of violence.'' There was no mention of specific weapons.
Hong Kong people enjoy the rights to freedom of expression and assembly, the government said. "However, protesters assembling at the scene must comply with the laws of Hong Kong and maintain social order, remain calm and exercise restraint, leave the scene peacefully. The police will take appropriate actions if there are any illegal acts.''-KAPILA BANDARA