Protesters blocked streets and have surrounded Police Headquarters in Wan Chai since late this morning, as others continue to occupy a space at the Legislative Council amid ongoing demonstrations against a controversial extradition bill.
The protesters descended upon police headquarters late this morning after occupying part of Harcourt Road. After they arrived outside the building, protesters demanded to speak to Police Commissioner Stephen Lo, and for charges against those arrested during a chaotic extradition bill protest on June 12 to be dropped.
The scene at the headquarters was somewhat unruly, with protesters at one point surrounding a police van that tried to enter the premises, one protester throwing an egg an officer stationed outside, and others seen covering security cameras with umbrellas.
Police, however, appeared determined not to allow things to devolve into the violence that marred the June 12 rally, holding a press conference just before noon — with chanting protesters audible in the background — saying they “respect people’s right to express their opinion in a peaceful way.” Though they encouraged people to move along, they said they had no plans to forcibly clear the crowd.
Even so, in a Twitter post, the police force said that it had been prevented from immediately handling 28 emergency calls in the Wan Chai area because of the protest.
One of the protesters braving the soaring temperatures outside police headquarters, a 62-year-old man surnamed Yeung, held out little hope that Commissioner Lo would emerge to parlay.
“Of course Stephen Lo isn’t coming out!” he said. “He’s too busy enjoying the air con in his office!”
Yeung, who was sitting under a tree on Arsenal Street, said that he didn’t know how long he would be out given the heat, but that he would stay as long as he could.
“I don’t think the police are going to use force today; the students have been largely peaceful so far.”
While a large number of demonstrators – mostly students – held the fort outside the police headquarters, a breakaway group of fewer than one hundred headed to central Wan Chai and occupied the lobbies of the Inland Revenue Tower and Immigration Tower at about 1:30pm this afternoon.
Some government employees found themselves unable to leave or enter the buildings, as protesters had blocked the entrances. Others trying to renew passports or ID cards also found themselves out of luck.
However, the occupation didn’t last very long, with the occupiers leaving the area and returning to Admiralty about an hour later.
Although prominent pro-democracy activists and lawmakers like Joshua Wong, Ted Hui, Lee Cheuk-yan, and Leung “Long Hair” Kwok-hung were seen at the site, the protests so far have been largely leaderless.
One protester, a 36-year-old who gave his last name as Yu, told Coconuts HK that he had been in Admiralty since 10am, and that he and the rest of the crowd were simply running out the clock.
“We don’t know what the immediate plan is, so for now we’re just waiting it out here and occupying the area outside police headquarters.”
Yu, who was sitting on the sidewalk on Lockhart Road, added: “We don’t need a leader right now, but maybe in the long term we’ll need a leader.”
As for the breakaway group that occupied the lobbies of government offices, they were “just some protesters doing their own thing.”
“This movement of non-cooperation is not led by one person or one group, it’s a movement led by people.”
As of press time, protesters had not dispersed from police headquarters.
Student groups had vowed to escalate their actions if authorities did not give in to their demands, which include fully withdrawing the controversial extradition bill, retracting the characterization of the June 12 protest as a “riot,” dropping charges against those arrested over the protest, investigating police brutality in relation to the clashes, and for Chief Executive Carrie Lam to step down.
The extradition bill, is still technically in limbo after Lam caved to unprecedented public opposition, and announced a “pause” in the work on the bill on Saturday. Though she has insinuated that the bill — which would have allowed extraditions to mainland China — will effectively die on the vine with the end of the LegCo term next year, she has refused to fully withdraw it.
Today’s protest, though lively, had nowhere near the turnout of previous anti-extradition demonstrations, which had brought large swathes of the city to a standstill. Today, the main organizers of those demonstrations, the Civil Human Rights Front, called for another protest on Wednesday to “deal another blow” to Lam ahead of the G20 summit in Japan, the SCMP reports.