Extradition bill protesters occupy gov’t buildings again as ‘leaderless’ demonstrations roll on

Protesters gathered outside the Revenue Tower in Wan Chai protesting the extradition bill. Photo via Twitter/@HongKongHermit.
Protesters gathered outside the Revenue Tower in Wan Chai protesting the extradition bill. Photo via Twitter/@HongKongHermit.

Scores of protesters occupied the entrance of a government building in Wan Chai earlier today, and are currently occupying another, as guerilla protests calling for the withdrawal of a controversial extradition bill enter a new phase.

The apparently leaderless protest was organized over the encrypted messaging service Telegram, with protesters being told to gather outside the Legislative Council at about 10:30am this morning. After some discussion over what to do next, the group marched to Revenue Tower in Wan Chai at around noon, and staged a sit-in in the building’s lobby.

The move was a repeat of Friday’s protest, which saw a relatively small group of protesters briefly occupy the lobbies of both towers. That protest lasted about an hour, and succeeded in compelling authorities to send civil servants home after protesters decided to allow people to leave the building, but not enter.

In a live feed of the sit-in by broadcaster RTHK, the protesters — dressed in black — can be seen blocking doors, again allowing people to leave the building, but preventing anyone from entering.

In another live feed of the protests today by Hong Kong Free Press, protesters could be heard discussing whether to let a man in after he told them that was going to be leaving Hong Kong soon and needed to go in to sort out some paperwork.

Shortly thereafter, the group had departed Revenue Tower and moved to Immigration Tower — where they began riding up and down the building’s escalators.

As of press time, most protesters had decided to leave Immigration Tower and return to the LegCo to mull their next steps, though a small contingent remained behind, according to reports from the scene.

The new, leaderless style of the anti-immigration protests may be starting to show its seams, with one observer at Immigration Tower saying protesters there “appear to be lost and not sure what to do.”

On top of demanding the withdrawal of the controversial extradition bill, protesters have also called on police to retract the use of the word “riot” to refer to a chaotic protest on June 12, and for authorities to drop charges against those arrested in the clashes that day.

On Friday, protesters surrounded police headquarters in Wan Chai for more than 12 hours, purportedly trapping officers inside, a move condemned as “illegal, irrational, and unreasonable” by police, who vowed to pursue those behind the blockade.

Today’s guerrilla protest comes after the Civil Human Rights Front, the organizer behind two much, much larger marches, announced that they will be staging a silent protest at Edinburgh Place, Central at 8pm on Wednesday. Prominent activist Joshua Wong, who has jumped into protests with both feet following his release from prison last week, also threw his weight behind Wednesday’s protest.

In an interview with RTHK, Wong dismissed the notion of talks between protesters and the pro-establishment camp, saying that the largely leaderless movement had no one who could speak on its behalf.

He also acknowledged that some have suggested protesters end their escalating actions while they still enjoy public support, but also dismissed that idea, saying the government should simply withdraw the bill.

Wednesday’s gathering is aimed at pressuring world leaders to address the situation in Hong Kong at the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan. Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, whom protesters have called on to step down, will also be attending the summit.

Earlier today, however, Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Zhang Jun appeared to quash that possibility, saying the G20 is a forum for focusing on global economic issues, and that China will not allow discussion of Hong Kong, even though US President Donald Trump plans to raise the city’s mass protests during a meeting with President Xi Jinping.

Speaking at a press briefing today, Zhang said the extradition bill row was “purely China’s internal affairs and no foreign country has the right to intervene,” recalling that Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China.

Additional reporting by AFP.

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