June 16, 2019
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Hong Kong postpones second reading of controversial extradition bill

Hong Kong, June 13 (efe-epa).- The Hong Kong Legislative Council on Thursday postponed for the second consecutive day a session in which the second reading of the highly contentious extradition bill was expected to be held.

"The President of the Legislative Council has decided that the Council meeting of 12 June 2019 will not be held today (13 June). Announcement will be made once the President determines the time of the meeting," LegCo said in a statement on its website.

This announcement comes after tens of thousands of people showed up outside the headquarters of the Hong Kong legislature on Wednesday demanding the withdrawal of the extradition bill.

The huge protests were finally dispersed by the police using batons, tear gas and rubber bullets with 72 left wounded, including two in critical condition.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam said the protesters attacked police by throwing bricks and using iron bars in what she considered to be a blatant, organized riot.

Hong Kong government offices will remain closed Thursday and Friday due to security concerns, and the Admiralty Metro Station - closest to the government headquarters - will not be operational on Thursday.

In addition, several streets in the area remain cut off by police, and a nearby shopping mall has announced it will be closed Thursday.

The proposed law has run into opposition across a broad social spectrum from students to entrepreneurs who have expressed concern about the risk that Hong Kong residents accused of crimes could be extradited to mainland China, owing to the lack of real separation of powers or control mechanisms.

The Hong Kong government insisted that the bill attempts to amend a loophole, that several safeguards have been included, and that local courts would review cases individually and can use veto power to prevent certain extraditions.

However, opponents also fear that under the new law, local activists, journalists critical of China and Chinese dissidents residing in Hong Kong may also be sent to the mainland to be tried.

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Hong Kong government offices to remain closed for security reasons

Hong Kong, China, Jun 13 (efe-epa).- Government offices in Hong Kong will remain closed on Thursday and Friday for security reasons, a day after the police dispersed massive protests against a controversial extradition bill in the former British colony.

"Due to security reason, the Central Government Offices (CGO) will be temporarily closed today and tomorrow (June 13 and 14)," the Hong Kong government said on its website on Thursday.

"Staff working in the CGO should not go to the workplace and should work in accordance with the contingency plans of their respective bureaux or departments. All visits to the CGO will be postponed or cancelled," it added.

Public broadcaster Radio Television Hong Kong reported Thursday that trains would not stop at Admiralty station, the closest stop to the government offices, at the request of the local police deployed in the area, the heart of Wednesday's protests.

Some streets in the area remained closed by the police early on Thursday, according to the broadcaster.

RTHK also reported that the nearby Pacific Place mall will not open on Thursday amid fears of fresh protests by those opposing the extradition bill, which could allow Beijing access to "fugitives" in Hong Kong.

Early Thursday, the police began removing the barricades placed by the protesters in the streets and which had obstructed traffic.

The police resorted to the use of pepper sprays and rubber bullets to disperse protesters on Wednesday, which left 72 people hospitalized, two of them in serious condition, out of which 41 have already been discharged, according to health officials cited by the local media.

Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam said the demonstrators "used arson, sharpened iron bars and bricks" to attack the police.

In an interview, reported by local media late Wednesday, Lam described the protesters as "organizing a riot."

“Clearly, this was no longer a peaceful assembly, but a blatantly organised instigation of a riot. This could not be an act that shows love for Hong Kong," Lam said in an interview with the TVB channel, during which she appeared to be on the verge of tears.

Democratic Party lawyer James To-Kun accused Lam of shedding "crocodile tears", saying she had ignored public opinion on the bill, which was evident in the massive protests on Sunday, in which over a million people took part, although police put the figure at 240,000.

Several international human rights organizations also urged the police against excessive use of force to break up the protests.

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