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Tensions simmer between Hong Kong riot police, protesters after day of violence

Wed 12th June, 2019 6:43pm
By James Pomfret and Anne Marie Roantree
    HONG KONG, June 13 (Reuters) - Hong Kong riot police and
protesters braced early on Thursday for possible further clashes
across the city's financial district after a day of violence
over an extradition bill that would allow people to be sent to
mainland China for trial.
    An uneasy calm had settled over the city after police fired
rubber bullets, tear gas and pepper spray in a series of
skirmishes to clear demonstrators from the city's legislature.
    It marked some of the worst violence to rock the financial
hub since Britain handed it back to Chinese rule in 1997 with a
guarantee of extensive autonomy and freedoms, including a
separate legal system and freedom of speech.
    The extradition bill has sparked unsually wide concerns,
both locally and internationally, that it risks further
encroachment from Chinese officials and threatens the rule of
law that underpins its international financial status.
    Hundreds of riot police could be seen resting and
re-grouping overnight while gaggles of protesters obtained fresh
supplies of water, googles and helmets, Reuters witnesses
reported.
    Some could be seen strapping exposed arms and legs with
cling wrap to guard against the impact of tear gas as many
braced for more police charges before dawn.
    As of 10pm on Wednesday evening, 72 people had been
hospitalised, including two classed as serious, according to the
Hong Kong Hospital Authority.
    
    BEMUSED TOURISTS
    Several thousand demostrators remained near the legislature
in the Admiralty district, while thousands more had retreated to
the Central business district, overlooked by the towers of some
of Asia's biggest firms and hotel chains, including HSBC
 0005.HK  and AIA  1299.HK  and the Mandarin Oriental.
    Bemused tourists could be seen scratching their heads at the
sight of abandoned luxury cars near the Mandarin. Barricades had
been placed over the doors of the venerable Hong Kong Club, one
of the city's oldest social institutions.
    It marked the third night of violence since a protest on
Sunday drew what organisers said was more than a million people
in the biggest street demonstration since the 1997 handover.
    Financial markets were hit during the clashes. The benchmark
Hang Seng Index closed 1.7% lower on Wednesday, having lost as
much as 2% in the afternoon, while Chinese companies in Hong
Kong ended down 1.2%.  urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nZZN2NLP00
    (For a live blog of protests coverage, click https://reut.rs/2Iajtez)
    Hong Kong's China-backed Chief Executive Carrie Lam
condemned the violence late on Wednesday and urged a swift
restoration of order.
    While acknowledging the controversy, Lam has refused to
postpone or withdraw the bill, which she and her officials
insist is needed to plug "loopholes" allowing the city to be a
haven for criminals wanted on the mainland.
    Lam has said the courts would provide human rights
safeguards in vetting case-by-case extraditions to mainland
China. Opponents, including leading lawyers, warn that China's
courts and security forces cannot be trusted to deliver fair and
open justice, or even routine access to lawyers.  
    U.S. President Donald Trump, who is locked in a trade war
with China, said the demonstrations in Hong Kong were massive
but added that he expected the issue to be resolved.
 urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL2N23J0YC
    "I understand the reason for the demonstration but I'm sure
they will be able to work it out. I hope they're going to be
able to work it out with China," Trump told reporters on
Wednesday at the White House.    
    British Prime Minister Theresa May said extradition rules in
Hong Kong had to respect the rights and freedoms set out in the
1984 Sino-British agreement on Hong Kong's future.
    "It is vital that those extradition arrangements in Hong
Kong are in line with the rights and freedoms that were set down
in the Sino-British joint declaration," May told parliament.

 (Reporting By James Pomfret, Anne Marie Roantree and Jessie
Pang; Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton in Washington;
Writing by Greg Torode
Editing by Gareth Jones)
 ((greg.torode@thomsonreuters.com; 852 6749 4661;))
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