Thousands of protesters blocked entry to Hong Kong’s government headquarters on Wednesday, delaying a legislative session on a proposed extradition bill that has heightened fears over greater Chinese control

Hong Kong’s Legislative Council remained closed on Thursday as debate on a controversial bill that would allow extraditions to mainland China was put on hold for another day.

The legislature announced its closure on Thursday morning as heavy rain drove off the last few protesters holding out to protest against the bill.

The Civil Human Rights Front, a pro-democracy coalition which acted as the unofficial organiser of the demonstrations, said late on Wednesday that protests would continue until the government withdrew the bill

At the city government’s headquarters, which thousands of demonstrators had surrounded on Wednesday in order to prevent the bill’s second reading, the ground was littered with discarded cardboard boxes, surgical masks and towels.

Later on Wednesday, riot police used tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets to try to disperse the protesters, who threw bottles and bricks in return. Medical authorities said 79 people were injured in the clashes.

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Sophie Richardson, the China director of watchdog Human Rights Watch, called on Hong Kong authorities to avoid using force

“The authorities should recognise Hong Kong’s legal obligation to allow people to make their views known through peaceful protests.”

The European Union issued a statement on Thursday calling for Hong Kong to respect the rights of protesters.

The EU said it “shares many of the concerns raised by the citizens of Hong Kong” about the extradition bill and what it could mean for the city’s future rule. “This is a sensitive issue, with potentially far-reaching consequences for Hong Kong and its people.”

Despite Wednesday’s protests and a march on Sunday that drew an estimated one million people – around one in seven people in the semi-autonomous city – Hong Kong’s leader, Chief Executive Carrie Lam has vowed to pass the bill before the legislature’s summer recess.

The extradition bill would allow for Hong Kong to send criminal suspects to countries with which it lacks a long-term agreement, including China

Critics and protesters say the measure reflects Beijing’s increasing interference in the semi-autonomous territory and could be used to crack down on political freedom.

Hong Kong, a British colony until 1997, is a ‘special administrative region’ of China until 2047.

Hong Kong’s governmental offices will remain closed on Thursday and Friday due to safety reasons following mass rallies against proposed changes to the extradition legislation, the Hong Kong government said in a statement on Thursday

In Hong Kong on Wednesday, tens of thousands of people protested the proposed amendments that they see as an attack on Hong Kong’s autonomy. This is the second biggest rally since the weekend, when over one million people took to the streets???.

“Due to security reasons, the Central Government Offices (CGO) will be temporarily closed today and tomorrow (13 and 14 June),” the statement read.

The government of the Chinese special administrative region specified that CGO staff should not come to the offices but “work in accordance with the contingency plans of their respective bureaus or departments.”

“All visits to the CGO will be postponed or canceled,” the Hong Kong government added.

Changes to the extradition law, if adopted, would allow the Hong Kong government to extradite suspects to various jurisdictions, including mainland China, without any bilateral agreement. Opponents of the law believe that Beijing could use it to crack down on dissent in Hong Kong.

Author: ANA Newswire