Police in Hong Kong on Wednesday used tear gas and rubber bullets against demonstrators protesting a bill that would allow citizens to be sent to mainland China for trials.
Tens of thousands of protesters descended upon the main government building ahead of the day's legislative session, clashing with police and overturning barricades, according to multiple reports, in the largest demonstrations in Hong Kong in decades.
The protests come as a majority of politicians in the regional government's Legislative Council appeared ready to approve a bill supported by Carrie Lam, Hong Kong's chief executive, that would allow for the extraditions.
“We won’t leave till they scrap the law,” one masked protester told Reuters, adding, “Carrie Lam has underestimated us. We won’t let her get away with this.”
The news service noted that a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry in Beijing told reporters that public opinion in Hong Kong was firmly against any actions that would threaten the "prosperity and stability" of the territory, which was handed over to the Chinese government from the United Kingdom in 1997 with guarantees that rights of its citizens would be respected.
“Hong Kong people’s rights and freedoms have been fully guaranteed in accordance with law,” the spokesman, Geng Shuang, added, according to The Associated Press.
A vote on the extradition legislation is scheduled for June 20.