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Protesters attempt to storm Hong Kong parliament as authorities forced to postpone extradition bill

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 12/06/2019 Our Foreign Staff

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Watch: Protesters block access to government headquarters (Dailymotion)

Hong Kong police fired tear gas to stop protesters from storming parliament, in a major escalation of public anger against a controversial extradition bill.

Local news footage showed demonstrators scattering as thick clouds of tear gas enveloped a group of protesters, who clashed with riot police outside the city's legislature.

The development came after thousands massing outside the building forced Hong Kong authorities to postpone the second reading of a bill allowing extradition to mainland China.

In scenes reminiscent of the Umbrella Movement that brought the city to a standstill in 2014, demonstrators stormed a key road next to Hong Kong's government offices to protest against the proposed legislation.

© Reuters Related: Thousands of protesters block roads

The protesters gathered 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.

a large crowd of people in a garden: Protesters march along a road demonstrating against a proposed extradition bill in Hong Kong © Reuters Protesters march along a road demonstrating against a proposed extradition bill in Hong Kong Five years after pro-democracy protesters rocked the city, protesters once again erected barricades to block traffic in the heart of the Asian financial centre, with many defying police calls to retreat.

Police used pepper spray on protesters  - many wearing face masks, helmets or goggles - at the legislative council building and held up signs warning demonstrators they were prepared to use force if the crowds didn't stop charging.

© Getty

Related: Hong Kong's 'weekend of rage' put as many as a million on the streets

Ms Lam said she would press ahead with the controversial legislation, which would allow people to be sent to mainland China for trial, 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.

As tensions rose, Hong Kong warned protesters that they must disperse. "I also urge citizens who have gathered to show restraint as much as possible, disperse peacefully and do not defy the law," Matthew Cheung, the city's chief secretary, said in a video message marking the first official reaction to the demonstrations.

© Reuters The extradition bill, which has generated unusually broad opposition at home and abroad, had been scheduled for a second round of debate on Wednesday in Hong Kong's 70-seat Legislative Council.

But, with crowds continuing to swell, officials in the Legislative Council (Legco) said they would delay the second reading of the bill "to a later date".

"We won't leave till they scrap the law," said one young man wearing a black mask and gloves.

"Carrie Lam has underestimated us. We Won't let her get away with this."

Some lawmakers played down comparisons to the Umbrella Movement of 2014.

Opposition lawmaker Hui Chi-fung said he did not expect a repeat of the mass protests that paralysed the city.

© Reuters

"I don't consider today's protest an Occupy movement," Hui said. "Young people here in the crowd are here only to voice out their anger at the government forcing to pass the extradition bill."

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.

Sunday's protest, which organisers said saw more than a million people take to the streets, in addition to a snowballing backlash against the extradition bill could raise questions about Lam's ability to govern effectively.

a screenshot of a social media post: Hong Kong's controversial extradition bill | At a glance © Provided by Telegraph Media Group Limited Hong Kong's controversial extradition bill | At a glance

Protesters rallied just a stone's throw from the heart of the financial centre where glittering skyscrapers house the offices of some of the world's biggest companies, including HSBC.

Strikes and transport go-slows were also announced for Wednesday as businesses, students, bus drivers, social workers, teachers and other groups all vowed to protest in a last-ditch effort to block the bill.

The Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong called on the government not to pass the bill "hurriedly" and urged all Christians to pray for the former British colony.

Many of the protesters defied police calls to retreat and passed provisions, including medical supplies, goggles, water and food among each other.

Some stockpiled bricks broken away from pavements.

Britain handed Hong Kong back to China 22 years ago under a "one-country, two-systems" formula, with guarantees that its autonomy and freedoms, including an independent justice system, would be protected.

However, many accuse China of extensive meddling since then, including obstruction of democratic reforms, interference with local elections and of being behind the disappearance of five Hong Kong-based booksellers, starting in 2015, who specialised in works critical of Chinese leaders.

Beijing rejects those accusations and official Chinese media said this week "foreign forces" were trying to damage China by creating chaos over the extradition bill.

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