Foreign governments and politicians have urged for restraint and dialogue after clashes over a controversial extradition bill in Hong Kong left multiple people injured.

The occupation of the area outside the legislature ended in violence on Wednesday as police deployed tear gas and rubber bullets against crowds advancing forwards throwing objects. The demonstrators blocked major roads in Admiralty throughout the day using makeshift barricades.

extradition protest clash smoke tear gas
Photo: Inmedia via Flickr.

As of Thursday evening, 81 people injured at the protest had attended 10 public hospitals – two of the cases were serious, according to the Hospital Authority. Police chief Stephen Lo said 22 police officers had also been injured and 11 arrests were made.

The US Congressional-Executive Commission on China has urged Chief Executive Carrie Lam to withdraw the extradition bill saying the recent peaceful protests are a strong and profound statement against such amendments.

US Representative Jim McGovern of the Commission said that he alongside Senator Marco Rubio and Representative Chris Smith will reintroduce the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act later in the week to “reaffirm [the] US’ commitment to human rights and the rule of law at a time when Hong Kong’s autonomy is imperilled by Chinese government interference and revised extradition law.”

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 lawyersjournalistsforeign politicians and businesses have raised concerns over the risk of residents being extradited to the mainland, which lacks human rights protections.

‘Uphold freedoms’

Australian foreign minister Marise Payne called on all sides to avoid violence in a statement on Wednesday.

“The Australian Government believes it is important that any changes to Hong Kong’s extradition arrangements are pursued in keeping with regular processes of government and resolved in a way that fully respects Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and upholds the rights and freedoms enshrined in Hong Kong’s Basic Law under the ‘one country, two systems’ framework,” it read.

Meanwhile, UK Prime Minister Theresa May echoed earlier government views on Wednesday saying that extradition bill must not infringe upon freedoms in Hong Kong.

“It is vital that those extradition arrangements in Hong Kong are aligned with the rights and freedoms that were set down in the Sino-British Joint Declaration. We have been unequivocal in our views,” she said.

A German Federal Foreign Office spokeswoman said the numbers of protesters showed that large sections of Hong Kong’s population are opposed to the extradition bill “because they fear that it will lead to an erosion of the rule of law and the autonomy of Hong Kong.”

“These fears are shared not only by the business and legal circles but also by the international community,” she added. “At the same time, we are reviewing whether the existing bilateral extradition agreement between Germany and Hong Kong can continue to be implemented in its present form if the planned extradition law is adopted.”

China extradition protest admiralty clash
Photo: Todd Darling/HKFP.

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 owing to the protests. Friday’s business at the legislature is also cancelled.

The Civil Human Rights Front has organised further protests this Sunday and Monday, after it a led a “million-strong” march last Sunday.

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Jennifer Creery is a Hong Kong-born British journalist, interested in minority rights and urban planning. She holds a BA in English at King's College London and has studied Mandarin at National Taiwan University.