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Hong Kong Protests Resume as Police Headquarters Is Surrounded

The protesters have felt emboldened since Carrie Lam, the city’s chief executive, indefinitely suspended the contentious extradition bill last Saturday. As many as two million protesters poured into the streets the next day, organizers contend.

[These aerial images show you the scale of last Sunday’s protest.]

The protesters are not satisfied with Mrs. Lam’s suspension of the bill, which would allow extraditions to mainland China — a move that they believe would put residents and visitors at risk of being subjected to the mainland’s Communist Party-controlled judicial system. Instead, the protesters want Mrs. Lam to withdraw the law fully.

The alarm over the bill underscores many Hong Kong residents’ rising anxiety and frustration over the erosion of civil liberties that have set the city apart from the rest of China.

“This is Hong Kong, not China,” declared a large, white banner displayed along the side of a pedestrian bridge on Friday.

Kenneth Kwan, a 19-year-old student, said he had joined the protesters in shutting down a major road because he thought it would make a stronger statement than a mere sit-in would.

“It’s a helpless feeling, and we don’t know how to make our government respond to our needs,” he said through a face mask, standing in an eastbound lane of Harcourt Road. The protesters, he said, needed to keep pressure on the government until their demands were met.

As of late afternoon, the police were maintaining a low-level presence at the protest sites, apparently trying to avoid escalating tensions.

The protesters had vowed to resume street demonstrations after a set of demands went unmet by a Thursday deadline. Aside from the scrapping of the bill, the protesters also called for Mrs. Lam’s resignation, the release of people arrested during clashes with police last week and an investigation into the police’s use of batons, tear gas and rubber bullets against protesters in clashes on June 12.

The demonstrations on Friday signaled that the fight was not over for Mrs. Lam, the embattled leader, and foreshadowed more upheaval in the city.

The protesters began the day with a sit-in on the grounds outside the legislative chambers. By midmorning, they had descended on the headquarters of the city’s police force, where they set up barricades blocking the entrance and demanded a meeting with the police chief.

“Shame on dirty cops,” they chanted.

Eddie Chu, a pro-democracy lawmaker, led the crowd in urging Stephen Lo, the police chief, and John Lee, the secretary for security, to resign. Joshua Wong, a key leader of the 2014 pro-democracy protests, who was released from prison on Monday, shouted slogans decrying the authorities for having previously labeled the June 12 demonstration a riot, which suggested serious potential legal ramifications for people who participated in it.

“No riots, only tyranny,” he chanted, as others followed.

The police urged the demonstrators to disperse, saying they were obstructing officers’ ability to respond to emergencies. Yolanda Yu, a police spokeswoman, said at a news conference steps from the protesters that a team of negotiators would be sent to persuade them to leave. The crowd shouted over her.

“The police is not clearing the grounds,” Ms. Yu said. “We respect the people to express their views in a peaceful manner.”

The massive outcry over the past two weeks prompted Mrs. Lam to deliver a personal, televised public apology on Tuesday for having proposed the bill in the first place.

But she did not agree to resign or withdraw the bill entirely, as many protesters have demanded. Instead, she said work on it would not resume in Hong Kong’s legislature as long as there was a public dispute over the bill’s content.

The extradition bill would allow the authorities in Hong Kong, a semiautonomous territory, to send people suspected of crimes to jurisdictions with which it does not have an extradition agreement, including mainland China. Opponents of the bill fear that if it becomes law, it would open a door for Beijing to take anyone from Hong Kong — including dissidents — into the mainland’s opaque, politicized judicial system.

[As the fight over Hong Kong’s future raged, the city’s tycoons waited and worried.]

Under China’s president, Xi Jinping, the ruling Communist Party has increasingly tried to exert control over Hong Kong, which has its own laws, independent courts and news outlets, as well as a vocal community of pro-democracy activists and lawmakers. Beijing has steadily eroded the city’s liberties over the last several years, including by trying to silence critics and stacking Hong Kong’s leadership with its supporters.

Source: NYT > World

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