Authorities in Hong Kong on Thursday closed government offices after mass protests intensified against a controversial extradition bill that would allow people to be sent to mainland China for criminal prosecution.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam, the embattled leader of the semi-autonomous body, described the protests as politically motivated "riots" and condemned protesters who resorted to "dangerous and life-threatening acts", Al Jazeera reported.
Lam further defended the highly controversial bill, insisting that the legal changes were crucial to the territory's future.
Thousands of people surrounded the Legco or the Legislative Council, on Wednesday morning ahead of a scheduled second debate on the extradition bill.
An estimated 5,000 riot police fired tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets and bean bags at the protesters as they were forced to clear the streets around the Legislative Council.
The demonstrations forced the debate to be postponed to an unspecified date, but the situation turned ugly when a part of the crowd tried to break through the barricades and enter into the building.
Lam has said that she wants the bill to be passed before the assembly is dissolved for the summer break at the end of the month. However, it is not clear when it will next be tabled.
On Monday, the US State Department said that Washington was concerned that the proposals would damage Hong Kong's business environment "and subject our citizens residing in or visiting Hong Kong to China's capricious judicial system".
But President Donald Trump appeared to take a cautious line when he was asked about the protests.
"That was as big a demonstration as I've ever seen," he said. "I hope that it all works out for China and Hong Kong."
According to Al Jazeera, at least 72 people were taken to hospital after the protests turned ugly on Wednesday. Most were released after treatment although two were said to be in a serious condition. The latest violence in Hong Kong's ongoing protests is the worst in more than two decades. (ANI)