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Hong Kong protest: Legislative Council meeting postponed; pepper spray used to disperse agitators

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Asia | June 12, 2019 9:41:25 AM IST
The Legislative Council meeting, during which a debate on the controversial Chinese extradition bill was supposed to be held, has been rescheduled to a "later time" by the President of the Legislative Council.

This comes as swathes of anti-bill protesters have blocked major roads leading to the Legislative Council building, forcing police to use pepper spray to disperse the crowd.

"Under Rules of Procedure 14(3), the President of the Legislative Council has directed that the Council meeting of June 12 scheduled to begin at 11 am today be changed to a later time to be determined by him. Members will be notified of the time of the meeting later," CNN reported while quoting an official statement.

Lawmakers were slated to hear a second reading of the bill along with holding a debate on it during the meeting which is now rescheduled. 5,000 police personnel in anti-riot gear have sealed all entrances of the complex, around which the protests are being held.

The contested bill, which was proposed on April 3, has been defended by the region's pro-Beijing leader, Chief Executive Carrie Lam.

"This is a very important piece of legislation that will help to uphold justice and also ensure that Hong Kong will fulfil her international obligations in terms of cross-boundary and transnational crimes," Lam said previously.

The protests took a violent turn on Monday as several hundred protesters clashed with police around Hong Kong's parliament.

Ignoring the huge public backlash, Lam said her administration had already made major concessions to ensure that the city's unique freedoms would be protected and that the bill's human rights safeguards met international standards.

"I and my team have not ignored any views expressed on this very important piece of legislation. We have been listening and listening very attentively," she said.

Calls for her resignation have been rampant throughout the protests against the document which was proposed on April 3.

Critics believe that the bill will leave anyone on Hong Kong soil vulnerable to being grabbed by the Chinese authorities for political reasons or inadvertent business offences, according to Al Jazeera.

They further reasoned that the newly framed extradition plan would dissolve the rights and legal protections, which were guaranteed under the city's handover from British colonial rule to Chinese sovereignty in 1997.

The vast majority of the protesters is made up of young people of high school or university age. Multiple pro-independence groups, including localist political party Youngspiration, are amongst those protesting today. The party, along with Hong Kong Indigenous, started the protests on Tuesday night.

Several appeals have been made for peaceful protests, with the leaders from the Civil Human Rights group urging demonstrators to "not confront police."

The respective governments of countries like UK, USA, Singapore, Thailand and Taiwan have issued travel advisories to their citizens in the wake of the protests.

Many observers have likened the latest demonstrations to the 2014 mass democracy protests, which have come to be known as the 'Umbrella Movement'. Several protesters can be seen holding umbrellas, much like the 2014 protests when the agitators used them as a tool to protect themselves from tear gas and pepper spray deployed by the police. (ANI)

 
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