Uneasy Calm in Hong Kong After a Day of Protest Against Extradition Bill

June 12, 2019 Updated: June 17, 2019

HONG KONG—Hong Kong authorities were shutting government offices in the city’s financial district for the rest of the week after a day of violence over an extradition bill that would allow people to be sent to mainland China for trial.

In the morning on June 13, around 20 protesters milled about as a widespread cleanup around the city’s legislature took place.

Security remained tight with scores of uniformed police with helmets and shields in the area, while a long row of police vans were stationed alongside. Plain clothes police officers checked identification of morning commuters.

Police fired rubber bullets, tear gas and pepper spray in a series of skirmishes on June 12 to clear demonstrators from the city’s legislature. It was some of the worst violence in Hong Kong since Britain handed it back to Chinese rule in 1997.

The Hong Kong Hospital Authority said 72 people had been hospitalized by 10 p.m. on June 12.

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

On June 9, more than a million people took to the streets in the biggest street demonstration since the 1997 handover.

Overnight several thousand demonstrators remained near the legislature in the Admiralty district, while thousands more retreated to the Central business district. 

Hong Kong’s benchmark stock exchange slid 1.3 percent down in early trade, extending losses from June 12 afternoon as tensions escalated.

Ken Lam, a protestor in his 20s who works in the city’s food and beverage industry, said he would remain on strike until the bill was scrapped.

“I don’t know what the plan for protesters is today, we will just go with the flow, but we think the turnout will be smaller than yesterday and it will be peaceful, after what happened yesterday,” he said.

Most roads around the central business district were opening for traffic on June 13, but Pacific Place, a prime shopping mall next to the legislature, remained closed. Banks including Standard Chartered, Bank of China and DBS said they had suspended branch services in the area until further notice.

Banks based in the Central district, the financial heart of the city, emphasized it was ‘business as usual’ but many offered staff, where possible, the option of working from home.

“As a precaution, we shut two outlets early where the protests were taking place. Our priorities are the safety of our employees and supporting our customers,” said HSBC, whose ground-level public space at its headquarters has previously been a focal point for protests.

By Julie Zhu, Clare Jim, Sumeet Chatterjee, Jennifer Hughes, Anne Marie Roantree, James Pomfret, Alun John, Jessie Pang, and David Stanway. 

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