Hundreds of demonstrators have blocked roads surrounding the police headquarters in Hong Kong and are demanding the release of people detained after last week’s violent protest against a controversial extradition bill.
Crowds began gathering on Friday morning outside of the city’s government offices in the centre of the city after the government failed to respond to demands from student unions and anonymous social media groups. The groups set a 5pm Thursday deadline for authorities to drop charges against the protesters, retract their characterisation of last Wednesday’s protest as “riots” and initiate an investigation into possible abuse of force by the police.
The controversial law would have allowed suspects in Hong Kong to be extradited to mainland China for the first time. Protests on June 12 erupted into violence, with police using tear gas and rubber bullets against demonstrators who had surrounded the legislature in a rare show of police force in the city.
Police detained some protesters for illegal assembly and rioting, sparking concerns that further arrests could follow. The police commissioner later said only those who had used metal rods and bricks against police would be accused of rioting.
Hundreds of protesters dressed in black followed directions distributed over messaging apps and social media to gather outside the city’s legislature for a “picnic” on Friday, then moved to the police headquarters chanting “release the protesters!” Many carried umbrellas, which have become a symbol of protest in Hong Kong following the 2014 Occupy demonstrations.
Yan, a computer science graduate at the protests who did not want to give his full name, said: “We have come out again because the government has not addressed our demands, but only issued so-called apologies. The protest unveiled a lot of problems . . . we want an explanation.”
The demonstrators are unsatisfied even after Carrie Lam, the city’s chief executive, suspended the proposal but did not withdraw the legislation.
Some of the organisers behind the protests are unhappy with the government’s lack of response. “This is, in fact, another evasion of any response to our demands, we condemn such cowardly behaviour,” student unions said in a statement. “From now on, we demand . . . meaningful responses from the government only.”
A notice issued on Thursday said central government offices, which are in the same building as the territory’s legislative council, would be closed on Friday “due to security considerations”.
Teresa Cheng, Hong Kong justice secretary, apologised for the handling of the bill.
“Regarding the controversies and disputes in society arising from the strife in the past few months, being a team member of the Government, I offer my sincere apology to all people of Hong Kong,” she said. “We promise to adopt a most sincere and humble attitude to accept criticisms and make improvements in serving the public.”