HONG KONG, June 13 — Scuffles broke out between protesters and police in Hong Kong today as hundreds of people remained on the streets to protest a planned extradition law with mainland China, a day after police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at demonstrators.
Protester numbers around the city's legislature, the epicentre of the violence, swelled during Thursday to thousands at one stage, with some protesters rushing to stop police from removing supplies of face masks and food.
Uniformed police with helmets and shields blocked overhead walkways in Hong Kong's financial district, while a long row of police vans was parked nearby.
Plainclothes police officers checked commuters' identity papers as a massive clean up was underway, clearing streets of debris, like broken umbrellas used by protesters to protect themselves and broken baricades, left from the violent clashes.
Protesters, some still wearing face masks and goggles in case police again use tear gas, were joined by school children during the day, but their numbers eased off later to a few hundred, after a Legislative Council meeting to discuss the extradition bill was postponed.
“We will be back when, and if, it comes back for discussion again,” said protester Stephen Chan, a 20-year old university student. “We just want to preserve our energy now.”
The extradition bill, which will cover Hong Kong residents and foreign and Chinese nationals living or travelling through the city, has sparked concerns it may threaten the rule of law that underpins Hong Kong's international financial status.
The legislature remained closed, with the council issuing a notice that the meeting to discuss the bill would not be held today.
Authorities have shut government offices in the financial district for the rest of the week after some of the worst violence in Hong Kong since Britain handed it back to Chinese rule in 1997.
Yesterday, police fired rubber bullets, tear gas and pepper spray in a series of skirmishes to clear demonstrators from the legislature, with officials saying 72 people had been admitted to hospital by 10pm.
It was the third night of violence since a protest on Sunday drew what organisers said was more than a million people in the biggest street demonstration since the 1997 handover.
Several thousand demonstrators stayed until the early hours of morning near the legislature in the Admiralty district, while thousands more retreated to the Central business district, overlooked by the towers of some of Asia's biggest firms and hotel chains, including HSBC and AIA. — Reuters