The second reading of a controversial extradition bill in Hong Kong has been postponed amidst a fresh round of huge protests.
Second round of protests begins on June 12
On June 12, thousands of Hong Kongers rallied to protest the passage of the bill for a second time, Reuters reported.
The protests were largely in response to Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam's declaration that the proposed extradition law would proceed with no further changes, in the wake of the initial protests on June 9.
The law effectively allows for the transfer of alleged criminals, both Hong Kong citizens and foreigners, to mainland China.
As such, protestors are concerned the law will allow Beijing to extradite political dissidents.
Protesters block the way to the Legislative Council
According to the South China Morning Post (SCMP), protesters had obstructed traffic and occupied multiple areas surrounding the city's Legislative Council, with the aim of preventing lawmakers from attending the bill's meeting scheduled for 11:00 am.
Videos and photos circulated on social media showed huge crowds and face-offs with the Hong Kong police.
While some of you are still in bed, hundreds of protesters have blocked Lung Wo Road before 8am in a bid to stop lawmakers from attending the meeting as the debate of #extraditionbill resumes in #hongkong 📸@SCMPNews photographer KY Cheng pic.twitter.com/ARKEcWIB34— Jeffie Lam (@jeffielam) June 12, 2019
Subsequently, a press release by the Legislative Council stated that the meeting had been postponed until further notice by the Council's President.
A photo of the building's interior purportedly showed its chamber to be empty at the scheduled timing.
Businesses, Catholic Church, public services rally against bill
Reuters highlighted that opposition to the bill came from a wide swathe of society, including businesses and public services, as well as the Catholic Church.
Banks such as HSBC and Standard Chartered, along with Big Four accounting firms, agreed to the provision of flexible working arrangements for staff on June 12.
Additionally, multiple prominent business leaders were reported by Reuters to have warned that passing the bill could erode investor confidence in the city, along with its competitive advantages.
Meanwhile, strikes and go-slows were announced by bus drivers, students, social workers and teachers as part of the attempt to block the bill.
Separately, the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong urged Christians to pray for Hong Kong and called on Lam not to pass the bill hastily.
Reports of pepper spray and bricks
Thus far, the protesters show no sign of backing down.
The Guardian reported that many protesters on the ground were unaware that the meeting has been delayed, possibly due to poor mobile signal.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg reported that protesters have since been pepper sprayed by the police, while SCMP reported that protesters have started to gather bricks to build a wall.
[email protected] (@DavidMooreSCMP) June 12, 2019
As for the use of tear gas, SCMP quoted a police officer who said there were no instructions yet.
He stated, "As long as they don’t attack us, I don’t think we need to escalate to the (sic) use of force."
Top image from Shooting Massive "Individual Picnics" at Tamar Park Facebook