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Anti-extradition violence shocks Hong Kong city

Hong Kong, Thursday

Authorities have shut some government offices in Hong Kong’s financial district after the worst violence the city has seen in decades.

By Thursday morning the crowds had largely dispersed around government headquarters — where police and protesters had pitched battles on Wednesday.

The protesters are angry about plans to allow extradition to mainland China. Despite the widespread opposition, the government has not backed down.

However, Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (LegCo) delayed a second reading of the controversial extradition bill and it is unclear when it will take place.

The second reading, or debate over the extradition bill was originally scheduled for Wednesday.

In an attempt to prevent lawmakers from participating in the debate, activists in the tens of thousands blockaded key streets around the government headquarters in central Hong Kong. Police were also out in riot gear.

Later the tensions boiled over as protesters tried to storm key government buildings demanding the bill be scrapped.

Police responded by firing tear gas and rubber bullets to block them and get them to disperse. After hours of chaos, the crowd eventually dissipated overnight. Rights group Human Rights Watch accused the police of using “excessive force” against protesters.

Seventy-two people aged between 15 and 66 were injured in the violence, including two men who were in critical condition and some 21 police officers, nine of whom were taken to hospital.

Two protesters have now been arrested for rioting, according to news site SCMP. An SCMP reporter said they were detained while trying to get a check-up in hospital. They had reportedly revealed to medical officers that their injuries were a result of the protests.

It is not clear if they are the same men who were described as critical. A Telegram group administrator has also been arrested for conspiracy to commit public nuisance, local news outlets reported.

Ivan Ip was said to be the administrator of a group chat on Telegram — which has been used as one of the main channels of communication by protesters — which had 30,000 members.

Reports say he is being accused of plotting with others to charge the LegCo building and blocking other neighbouring roads.

After the violence on Wednesday, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, in a tearful address, called the protests “organised riots”, and dismissed accusations that she had “sold out” Hong Kong. —BBC

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