Hong Kong Mass Protests Force Delay of Controversial Extradition Law

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Clashes erupted again on the streets of Hong Kong Wednesday, as police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at protesters demonstrating against a controversial extradition law.

Wednesday’s protests drew tens of thousands of people on to the streets, shutting down central Hong Kong for the second time in four days in opposition to the proposed law, which would allow China to extradite people from Hong Kong to the mainland. The occupation continued into Wednesday night.

The protesters, many of them students, had peacefully occupied the streets surrounding the Legislative Council (LegCo) in central Hong Kong, until violence broke out just after 3 p.m. (3 a.m. ET), the deadline protesters had issued the government to drop the bill. In chaotic scenes, police responded with rubber bullets and tear gas as some charged them with umbrellas and threw plastic bottles.

By that time, the protesters had secured a small win: LegCo officials announced they were postponing the second reading of the bill to an unspecified date. Still, it is likely a temporary reprieve.

Despite the mass opposition to the bill, which drew more than a million protesters on to the streets Sunday, analysts say they are unlikely to force the pro-Beijing government to abandon its plans.

Clashes erupted again on the streets of Hong Kong Wednesday, as police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at protesters demonstrating against a controversial extradition law.

Wednesday’s protests drew tens of thousands of people on to the streets, shutting down central Hong Kong for the second time in four days in opposition to the proposed law, which would allow China to extradite people from Hong Kong to the mainland. The occupation continued into Wednesday night.

The protesters, many of them students, had peacefully occupied the streets surrounding the Legislative Council (LegCo) in central Hong Kong, until violence broke out just after 3 p.m. (3 a.m. ET), the deadline protesters had issued the government to drop the bill. In chaotic scenes, police responded with rubber bullets and tear gas as some charged them with umbrellas and threw plastic bottles.

By that time, the protesters had secured a small win: LegCo officials announced they were postponing the second reading of the bill to an unspecified date. Still, it is likely a temporary reprieve.

Despite the mass opposition to the bill, which drew more than a million protesters on to the streets Sunday, analysts say they are unlikely to force the pro-Beijing government to abandon its plans.

Analysts from IHS Markit said the bill’s strong backing from Beijing meant it was likely to eventually pass, even at the cost of escalating protests, and that Hong Kong’s police force was likely to be able to prevent the protests from escalating out of hand.

While analysts say the protesters face a near-impossible battle in pressuring the pro-Beijing government to drop its plans, the protesters, drawing from the lessons of failed previous protest movements, are determined not to back down. This sets up the prospect of a protracted standoff in the semi-autonomous Chinese city.

The protest movement is already shaping up as a rebirth of the so-called umbrella movement of 2014, when pro-democracy protesters occupied central Hong Kong for 79 days. Many protesters Wednesday carried umbrellas, using them to shield themselves from police pepper spray, in a reprise of the scenes that gave the 2014 movement its name.

“Didn’t we say at the end of the umbrella movement we would be back?” pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo said before a crowd of supporters. “Now we are back!”

Cover: Demonstrators react to a cloud of tear gas near the Legislative Council in Hong Kong, Wednesday, June 12, 2019. Hong Kong police fired tear gas and high-pressure water hoses against protesters who had massed outside government headquarters Wednesday in opposition to a proposed extradition bill that has become a lightning rod for concerns over greater Chinese control and erosion of civil liberties in the semiautonomous territory. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

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