Thousands of protesters paralyse Hong Kong’s financial hub over extradition bill
HONG KONG (Reuters) – Chaotic scenes erupted in Hong Kong on Wednesday as tens of thousands of demonstrators stormed key roads next to government offices to protest against a proposed extradition bill that would allow people to be sent to mainland China for trial.
Thousands of protesters rallied in and around Lung Wo Road, an important east-west artery near the offices of embattled Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, as hundreds of riot police warned them to stop advancing.
Some protesters erected barricades to block traffic in the heart of the Asian financial centre, with many defying police calls to retreat, in scenes reminiscent of pro-democracy protests that rocked the city in late 2014.
The government advised staff to avoid driving to government buildings because roads were blocked.
Lam has defiantly vowed to press ahead with the controversial legislation despite deep concerns across the Asian financial hub that triggered on Sunday its biggest political demonstration since its handover from British to Chinese rule in 1997.
Demonstrators from across a wide spectrum of Hong Kong society began joining the overnight protesters earlier on Wednesday as businesses across the city prepared to go on strike.
The bill, which has generated unusually broad opposition at home and abroad, is due for a second round of debate on Wednesday in Hong Kong’s 70-seat Legislative Council, although it was not immediately clear if that would go ahead as planned.
The legislature is controlled by a pro-Beijing majority.
Lam has sought to soothe public concerns and said her administration was creating additional amendments to the bill, including safeguarding human rights.
In a rare move, prominent business leaders warned that pushing through the extradition law could undermine investor confidence in Hong Kong and erode its competitive advantages.