HONG KONG (AP) – Police equipped with riot shields have pushed back against protesters attempting to storm past barricades to get into Hong Kong’s government headquarters.
Protesters scattered from some areas, using umbrellas to fend off pepper spray, tear gas and compressed water deployed by police trying to protect the besieged government building.
Hong Kong’s police commissioner says the scene around the city’s government headquarters was “chaotic” and is appealing for protesters to leave the area.
Commissioner Stephen Lo Wai-chung said police took action after a large group of masked protesters charged onto the roads surrounding the complex in Hong Kong’s Admiralty district and started throwing objects including metal barriers at officers. He called the situation a riot.
Livestreamed reports from local television stations showed demonstrators overturning metal canopies and throwing objects as police cleared some streets that had been jammed with thousands of people hours before.
He said several people including some officers had been injured.
Some police carried compressed air-powered rifles that appeared to be equipped to fire non-lethal projectiles. It was unclear if they were shooting them.
Thousands of protesters have descended on the area to try to prevent Hong Kong’s Beijing-backed government from pushing through a deeply unpopular extradition bill.
The bill would allow criminal suspects in Hong Kong to be sent for trial in mainland China.
Under its “one country, two systems” framework, Hong Kong was guaranteed the right to retain its own social, legal and political systems for 50 years following its handover from British rule in 1997. However, China’s ruling Communist Party has been seen as increasingly reneging on that agreement by forcing through unpopular legal changes.
A vote on the amended laws is scheduled for June 20.
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