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Hong Kong: Thousands protesters gather amid govt’s offices closure

The demonstration protesting a proposed extradition bill in Hon Kong swelling as thousands of protesters gathered on Thursday for more potential clashes with police.

On Wednesday police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at unarmed demonstrators protesting over a planned extradition law with mainland China.

Small scuffles broke out between police and demonstrators around the city’s legislature, the epicentre of the violence, while some protesters rushed to stop police from removing supplies of face masks and food.

Uniformed police with helmets and shields blocked overhead walkways, while a long row of police vans was parked nearby. Plainclothes police officers checked commuters’ identity papers.

Schoolchildren joined the steadily growing crowd, which swelled to a few thousand by midday, from around 20 early in the day.

The extradition bill, which will cover Hong Kong residents and foreign and Chinese nationals living or travelling through the city, has sparked concerns it may threaten the rule of law that underpins Hong Kong’s international financial status.

The city legislature remained shut and the council said in a statement that its meeting would not be held on Thursday.

Authorities have shut government offices in the financial district for the rest of the week after some of the worst violence in Hong Kong since Britain handed it back to Chinese rule in 1997.

On Wednesday, police fired rubber bullets, tear gas and pepper spray in a series of skirmishes to clear demonstrators from the legislature, with officials saying 72 people had been admitted to hospital by 10 p.m.

It was the third night of violence since a protest on Sunday drew what organizers said was more than a million people in the biggest street demonstration since the 1997 handover.