Hong Kong leader calls protesters in weekend clashes 'rioters'

Hong Kong leader calls protesters in weekend clashes 'rioters'
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Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Monday called protesters who clashed with police over the weekend "rioters," a term that can carry steep legal repercussions, Reuters reported Monday.

“We thank the police officers for maintaining social order loyally and professionally, but they have suffered in attacks from those rioters - they can be called rioters,” Lam said while visiting three injured police officers at a hospital, according to Reuters.

The term "riot" is particularly significant in Hong Kong, because a conviction for rioting there can carry a 10-year prison sentence.

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Hong Kong has been rocked by protests for weeks over a bill that would allow criminal suspects to be extradited to China. The bill has sparked concerns among locals who fear mainland China’s broadening influence in Hong Kong and see the bill as a threat to their freedoms.

The island was guaranteed a legal system independent of Beijing when it was transferred to Chinese rule under a "one country, two systems" order, Reuters noted.

Lam suspended the controversial bill last month after hundreds of thousands of demonstrators flooded the city, but that was not enough to quell protests.

Hundreds of thousands have protested in demonstrations since early June to demand the bill be formally withdrawn and that Lam resign.

Tens of thousands protested in Hong Kong Sunday; Lam claimed the protests injured 10 police officers and sent six to the hospital.