The pro-democracy camp has condemned the level of force used against anti-extradition law protesters on Wednesday.
The occupation of the area outside the legislature ended in violence on Wednesday as police deployed tear gas and rubber bullets against advancing crowds.
The crowds had blocked major roads around government headquarters in Admiralty using makeshift barricades.
By Thursday morning, they had been largely cleared as crowds dispersed overnight.
The number of casualties confirmed by the Hospital Authority as of Thursday 6am was 79, the youngest of which was 15. Of those included, two remain in a serious condition.
The Legislative Council President Andrew Leung cancelled a scheduled full council meeting on Thursday, a day after a second reading of the extradition bill was postponed due to the protests outside the legislature.
Democratic Party Chair Wu Chi-wai said the force used by the police was not proportional. Batons, pepper spray, tear gas, rubber bullets and bean bag rounds were among the gear used on Wednesday.
“Most of the people they were facing were weapon-less young people,” Wu said. “[Chief Executive] Carrie Lam is cold-blooded. Residents, my constituents, and myself were all asking ‘Carrie Lam, when will you die?’”
“Carrie Lam, pro-Beijing lawmakers, and all police officers and top officials who helped them – they can never appease the wrath of the world, even if they die 10,000 times,” he added.
Wu called for the public to continue to use all legal and reasonable means to paralyse the government.
A photo circulating online showed a protester with a swollen left eye and a three centimetre wound underneath caused by a rubber bullet, according to a netizen.
She said that the bullet was five centimetres away from her friend’s the eye and that they have been treated at the hospital.
Other reports of police verbal abuse against protesters and journalists have emerged. A clip circulating online showed a reporter saying “I am a journalist” to which the police officer replied “Fuck your mother” before pushing the crowd back.
The Hong Kong Journalists Association said in a statement on Wednesday that the police pushed journalists with shields and batons “causing injury to several” while “targeting retreating reporters with pepper spray, causing burns on their backs and hands.”
Lawmaker Leung Yiu-chung said the scenes on Wednesday reminded him of the Tiananmen Massacre in 1989, when the Chinese army shot and killed protesting students in Beijing: “The [Hong Kong] police shot at people without any hesitation – they have no conscience,” he said.
Leung said he heard from volunteers providing first-aid to the injured that the police forcefully took their first-aid kits including saline.
“The police did not allow them to save injured young people. They did not have any humanity,” Leung said.
But pro-Beijing lawmaker Wong Kwok-kin said in response that he believed the police clearance action was appropriate as protesters almost charged into the Legislative Council Complex.
“The Hong Kong police were very restrained compared to other forces around the world,” he said.
Hong Kong proposed legal amendments in February to allow the city to handle case-by-case extradition requests from jurisdictions with no prior agreements – most notably China and Taiwan.
The bill would enable the chief executive and local courts to handle extradition requests without legislative oversight, though lawyers, journalists, foreign politicians and businesses have raised concerns over the risk of residents being extradited to the mainland, which lacks human rights protections.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam had issued a televised speech on Wednesday night describing the protest as an organised “riot.”
Lam stood by the controversial extradition bill despite a march on Sunday that organisers said was attended over a million people.
“Since the Handover, some people will use matters involving the central and Hong Kong governments, mainland and Hong Kong to incite confrontation… radical confrontation is not the solution,” she said. “I hope society returns to order soon, and I hope no more people will be injured.”
Additional reporting: Jennifer Creery.
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