Thousands of demonstrators mostly wearing black blocked key roads near the Central Government Offices on Friday. The government temporarily closed the building and canceled a meeting of the Legislative Council’s transport panel. There was a very light police presence in the area.
Historic protests in the past few weeks, including several that turned violent, prompted Lam to suspend the bill indefinitely and apologize to the city’s 7.5 million people. The episode has embarrassed the central government in Beijing, which has continued to back Lam’s administration.
Interactive: How Hong Kong Got a Million Protesters Out on the Streets
The bill is a “thoroughly bad idea,” Martin Lee, founding chairman of the opposition Democratic Party and an elder statesman among city democrats, told Bloomberg Television on Friday. “Hong Kong people can only continue to demonstrate, and I hope peacefully, so that the world, the rest of the world, will speak up for us.”
At one point, some protesters outside the government headquarters Friday formed a line of open umbrellas on the ground. People used umbrellas to protect themselves from pepper spray fired by police last week, and in mass pro-democracy demonstrations five years ago that became known as the “Umbrella Movement.”
Justice Secretary Teresa Cheng apologized to the people of Hong Kong Friday in an official blog post, saying there had been “deficiencies” in authorities’ explanations of the bill. “The government has learned a hard lesson, but we remain hopeful that the experience gained will help us work better to meet the public’s expectations in future,” she wrote.
Security chief John Lee has defended his personnel, saying they acted in defense against protesters who charged a police line blocking the city’s legislature in an attempt to storm the building. Some battled with riot police throughout the afternoon to prevent lawmakers from debating the controversial extradition bill.
Earlier: Hong Kong Police Tactics Under Fire as Legislature Resumes
The Civil Human Rights Front — which helped organize a week of historic demonstrations but was not overseeing Friday’s gathering — made an investigation into what it calls excessive violence and abuse of power by the police a major demand of a historic protest Sunday that it said brought 2 million people onto the streets.
Lam and police commissioner Stephen Lo have stood by the police’s behavior. Lam told reporters Tuesday that “throughout, whether it is on Wednesday evening or today standing here, my position is totally aligned with the Commissioner of Police.” DM