In Brief

Police and protesters clash on Hong Kong anniversary

Tensions high after weeks of mass protests over extradition bill

Police have been involved in violent clashes with protesters in Hong Kong on the 22nd anniversary of the handover of the former British colony to China.

Groups of young, masked protesters have seized three key thoroughfares, using metal and plastic barriers to block the way. Officers used pepper spray to contain demonstrators as the controversial city chief Carrie Lam attended the annual flag-raising ceremony today.

Activists say police also used batons to attack protesters who were forced to defend themselves with umbrellas.

The anniversary is expected to be more tense than usual after more than a million people took to the streets over the past three weeks to protest Hong Kong’s Beijing-backed leader and her proposed extradition bill.

Yet these protests have been a culmination of a longer process. Reuters says that the anniversary of the handover of the former British colony to Beijing has been marked in recent years by “deepening despondency about what many Hong Kong residents see as a relentless march towards mainland control”.

The Guardian points out that the “semi-autonomous city has been shaken by historic demonstrations in the past three weeks, when protesters have demanded the withdrawal of a bill that would allow extraditions to the Chinese mainland”.

CNN says the turmoil has created concern among the Hong Kong business community, with leading executives asking: “Does Beijing still need the city, and if so, will it back away from confrontation that could drive business and investors away?”

Today’s demonstrations have seen fresh calls for the withdrawal of a bill that would allow extraditions to the Chinese mainland. Hundreds of protesters shouted “retract the evil law” in the torrential rain.

Chief Executive Lam has failed to placate protesters despite suspending the bill. Opponents are demanding her resignation and a complete withdrawal of the bill.

Frustration and fear are rife in Hong Kong. “It’s a symbol of how are city is falling,” a protestor told AFP. “Our city’s freedoms are shrinking, it’s going in a more authoritarian direction.”

Another, 22-year-old Jason Chan, added a more defiant tone, saying: “Whatever happens we won’t lose heart, that’s why we’ll keep taking to the streets. Resistance is not a matter of a day or a week, it is long term.”

“This is a war,” protester Kacey Wong told CNN. “A war on culture, to be specific. If we win, our prize is very humble - we get to keep our language, our way of life. If we lose, then the price is heavy”.

However, in a sign of the divisions in Hong Kong, thousands of pro-government protesters rallied outside the government headquarters in support of the city’s police yesterday. They waved Chinese flags and hurled insults at anti-government demonstrators camped nearby.

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