Hong Kong protests: How violence erupted in the city over a polarising extradition Bill

Hong Kong protests: How violence erupted in the city over a polarising extradition Bill

Opposition to the extradition Bill has led to protests across Hong Kong.
Opposition to the extradition Bill has led to protests across Hong Kong. (Photo: AFP/ Dale de la Rey)

HONG KONG: At least 81 people were injured after violent protests erupted in Hong Kong over a controversial extradition Bill that would allow people to be sent to mainland China for trial. 

With fresh protests expected on Sunday (Jun 16), here is how the events have unravelled so far:

FEBRUARY 2019: PROPOSALS FOR BILL LAUNCHED

Protest to demand authorities scrap a proposed extradition bill with China, in Hong Kong
A demonstrator holds up a sign during a protest to demand authorities scrap a proposed extradition bill with China, in Hong Kong, China June 9, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Peter/Files

The Hong Kong government put forward a Bill which would simplify case-by-case extraditions of criminal suspects to countries beyond the 20 with which Hong Kong has existing extradition treaties.

If passed, it would allow extraditions from Hong Kong to greater China - including the mainland, Taiwan and Macau, closing what Hong Kong government officials have repeatedly described as a "loophole" that they claim has allowed the city to become a haven for criminals from the mainland.

While Hong Kong’s leader would have a role to play in the extradition, the Bill removes Legislative Council oversight of extradition arrangements.

READ: Explainer: Why proposed changes to Hong Kong's extradition law are fueling protests

MARCH 2019: GOVERNMENT ATTEMPTS TO MAKE BILL MORE PALATABLE

In March, the Hong Kong government agreed to remove nine economic crimes from a total of 46 on the proposed extradition Bill, after pressure from the local business sector. Economic crimes are often used by China to pursue critics.

MAY 2019: GROWING CRITICISM LEADS TO MORE CONCESSIONS

Faced with growing criticism domestically and abroad, authorities introduced a series of tweaks, including:

  • Handing over only those wanted for crimes which carry at least a seven-year jail sentence
  • Considering only extradition requests from other countries which are made through their top authority
  • Ensuring that defendants have an open trial, access to lawyers, be free from forced confession, enjoy the right to appeal, and be given time to prepare a proper defence

READ: Hong Kong raises jail threshold for proposed extradition law

JUN 6, 2019: HONG KONG LAWYERS PROTEST

Thousand of legal professionals wearing black, stage a silent protest to the Central Government Off
Thousand of legal professionals wearing black, stage a silent protest to the Central Government Offices, demanding authorities scrap a proposed extradition bill with China, in Hong Kong, China Jun 6, 2019. (Photo: REUTERS/Tyrone Siu)

More than 3,000 Hong Kong lawyers held a rare protest march and made their way from the city's highest Court of Final Appeal to the Central Government Offices. 

"I want to do what I can to ensure the Hong Kong government is forced to backtrack ... I am stunned they have come up with this plan," said one mainland Chinese lawyer based in Hong Kong.

READ: Hong Kong lawyers protest 'polarising' extradition bill in rare march

JUN 9, 2019: THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM

It began with crowds of peaceful marchers stretching out for miles - families with flag-waving toddlers, grandparents in wheelchairs, expats and business types, musicians banging drums, artists, and activists.

For more than six hours, dense crowds snaked their way through the city chanting "Scrap the evil law!" and "Oppose China extradition!" in what was believed to be the largest protest since Hong Kong's 1997 handover to China.

The march passed without incident.

But shortly after midnight, violence flared as police moved to clear protesters who had vowed to stay overnight outside parliament.

READ: Violence mars end of huge Hong Kong protest against China extradition

JUN 10, 2019: FIGHTS BREAK OUT

HK protest
Protesters against the proposed amendments to the extradition law in Hong Kong clash with police officers outside the Legislative Council. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

Moments after the protest permit expired at midnight, police moved in as demonstrators hurled bottles and used metal barricades against riot police shields.

Officers used pepper spray hoses to push the crowds back as they shouted: "We have a right to protest!".

Skirmishes continued overnight as police officers chased down protesters in the nearby streets, and angry masked youths were seen having running battles with riot police through the night.

Hong Kong's pro-Beijing leader Carrie Lam said she had no plans to scrap the proposal, calling the Bill a “very important piece of legislation that will help to uphold justice”.

Ms Lam initially noted that the Bill would resume its second reading on Jun 12.

At the same time, China backed the Hong Kong government and voiced opposition to “outside interference” following the protest.

READ: Hong Kong leader says extradition bill will not be scrapped

READ: Violence breaks out as police try to clear Hong Kong protesters

JUN 11, 2019: FRESH PROTESTS ERUPT BEFORE DEBATE

Thousands of protesters braved thunderstorms to continue voicing their disapproval of the controversial Bill. As tensions mounted, security tightened around the legislature building, with riot police deployed in some areas.

There was also an online petition calling for 50,000 people to surround the legislature building overnight into Wednesday.

JUN 12, 2019: SECOND READING OF BILL POSTPONED

On Wednesday, tens of thousands of protesters surrounded the city's legislature building, blocking major roads in a defiant show of strength against the government's plans for the Bill.

Demonstrators surrounded government offices and brought traffic to a standstill as they called on authorities to scrap the Beijing-backed plan. Police also used rubber bullets and tear gas to break up the crowds.

The rows of riot police were far outnumbered by protesters, with the demonstration continuing to swell. 

Later that day, the Hong Kong government postponed the second reading the extradition Bill. Ms Lam also made her first comments since the violence broke out, calling the clashes “organised riots" and saying that she stood by the Bill.

As of 10pm on Wednesday, Hong Kong Hospital Authority said 72 people had been hospitalised.

READ: Hong Kong leader calls extradition law protests an 'organised riot'

JUN 13, 2019: CASUALTY NUMBERS RISE

HK protest
A police officer fires tear gas at protesters during clashes against a controversial extradition law proposal outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong. (Philip FONG/AFP)

Five days into the protest, both Hong Kong riot police and protesters braced themselves for further clashes across the city's financial district. Just a handful of protesters remained early in the day as the demonstration slowly broke up.

Hong Kong authorities were also forced to shut government offices in the financial district for the rest of the week.

Police added that 11 people had been arrested, while 22 officers were injured. They had also fired about 150 tear gas canisters.

As of 5pm on Thursday, there were 81 casualties as a result of the protests, the Hospital Authority said.

With fresh arrests and more casualties, Hong Kong lawmakers again postponed the meeting to discuss the extradition Bill. 

READ: Hong Kong police arrest 11, Beijing voices support for action against 'riots'

JUN 14, 2019: MOUNTING PRESSURE FROM ALLIES

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has displayed a steely resolve even in the face of mass
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has displayed a steely resolve even in the face of mass protests AFP/Anthony WALLACE

Hong Kong's embattled leader has faced increasing pressure to scrap the Bill, including calls from within her own political camp to reverse course and dampen public anger.

Ms Lam has refused to meet protesters' demands, but the sentiments from within her own party could mean supporters are now having second thoughts about the Bill.

READ: Pressure mounts on Hong Kong leader from her own allies

Protest organisers have announced plans for another mass rally on Sunday. So far, Beijing has voiced its support for Hong Kong's response.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang had said the protests were "an act that undermines Hong Kong's stability".

"What happened in the Admiralty area was not a peaceful rally, but a riot organised by a group," he told a regular briefing.

"We support the Hong Kong government's dealing with the situation in accordance with the law."

JUN 15, 2019: HONG KONG BACKS DOWN ON BILL

Ms Lam suspended the Bill following days of protests and clashes between police and demonstrators. 

The chief executive said the city's legislature would stop all work on the Bill and the next steps will be decided after consultations with various parties.

READ: Hong Kong backs down on extradition Bill after massive protests

Source: CNA/aa

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