HKSAR LegCo postpones discussion of law amendments due to riot, chief executive calls for peaceful expression of views
The Legislative Council (LegCo) of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) postponed a meeting slated on Wednesday to discuss the amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance, as a riot broke out around the LegCo building.
HKSAR Chief Executive Carrie Lam strongly condemned the violence and called for peaceful expression of different views.
The LegCo president "has decided that the (Legislative) Council meeting of June 12 will not be held today. Announcement will be made once the president determines the time of the meeting," the LegCo Secretariat announced Wednesday afternoon.
The meeting, originally scheduled at 11:00 a.m. local time, planned to discuss the Fugitive Offenders & Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill. The bill, tabled by the HKSAR government at the LegCo in April, aims to fill loopholes in HKSAR's existing legal framework concerning mutual legal assistance in criminal matters.
At about 8:00 a.m. local time, protesters gathering around LegCo Complex dashed to nearby roads and obstructed the traffic. They lifted up bricks on the pavement and demolished railings to form road barriers, causing severe traffic congestion.
The protesters also used violent acts to storm the LegCo Complex in the afternoon.
Codemning the protesters for starting a riot, HKSAR government's Commissioner of Police Stephen Lo said at a briefing in the afternoon that the police has been exercising restraint, but the protesters repeatedly charged the police cordon line, performing life-threatening acts including using sharpened iron poles and bricks to attack police officers.
The police strongly condemned the violent acts, and reiterated that any acts endangering public order and public safety will not be tolerated, said the police in a statement Wednesday.
"Police will take resolute actions to restore social order and protect public safety," said the statement.
Describing what happened as a "sad scene," Lam condemned the riot in a videotaped speech broadcast Wednesday evening.
"The riots which undermined social peace and disregarded laws and regulations cannot be tolerated by any civilized, law-based society. It is very clear that this is no longer a peaceful assembly, but a blatant and organized riot," Lam said.
"Hong Kong is a free, open and diverse society where people have different views on anything. But there is a bottom line for expressing opinions. If radical and violent means can be used to achieve the goal, these scenes will only become more and more fierce and will certainly bring harm to Hong Kong," she said.
"I appeal to all the people who love Hong Kong to stay away from violence," she said, adding that "I am convinced that Hong Kong, a civilized society, can solve any problem in a peaceful, rational and law-abiding manner for the sake of Hong Kong's overall interests."
The HKSAR government has repeatedly emphasized that amendments to the two ordinances will help protect the HKSAR's law-abiding general public and its business environment.
Cheung Kin-chung, chief secretary for administration of the HKSAR government, said Wednesday that the HKSAR government has intensively explained to different circles of the society in the past few months the aim and contents of the amendments, and has substantially strengthened the protection of human rights and of other issues related to the amendments in response to the views collected.
Meanwhile, various groups in the HKSAR have voiced support for the amendments. In an online petition initiated in April by a group of people from all walks of life in Hong Kong, over 900,000 people have taken part and signed their names in support of the amendments as of Wednesday evening.
Kennedy Wong, the convener of the group, said the number of signatures collected shows that the HKSAR government's proposal for amendments has been supported by the mainstream public opinion in Hong Kong.
The general public expects the HKSAR government to complete the amendments as scheduled, block legal loopholes, uphold the rule of law and justice, and prevent Hong Kong from becoming a "safe haven for fugitives," Wong said.
Some organizations in the HKSAR also launched protests against intervention by foreign countries or external parties in the issue.
Members of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, one of the major political groups in the HKSAR, protested US interference in the HKSAR's internal affairs in front of the U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong.