Hong Kong postpones debate of controversial bill (Updated)
UPDATED: Police have fired rubber bullets and tear gas at protesters in Hong Kong where anger at a new extradition bill has spilled over into violence.
Protesters have blocked key roads around government buildings and threw bricks and projectiles at police.
Hong Kong postponed debate of a controversial extradition bill on Wednesday morning after thousands of protesters occupied key roads near the government’s offices demanding a withdrawal of the law that critics say will allow China to extradite whoever they want from the territory.
In a statement issued at 11am on Wednesday, which is when the debate had been due to begin, the government issued a statement saying a new time would now be set, but it did not specify when.
The leader Hong Kong’s legislature had drawn fresh criticism after he announced on Tuesday that the bill would go to a final vote on June 20, much earlier than expected.
Early on Wednesday thousands of demonstrators stormed a key road 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 rallying in and around Lung Wo Road, an important east-west artery near the offices of 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.
Embattled leader Lam said she would 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. 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.