Hong Kong Chief Secretary for Administration Matthew Cheung Kin-chung on Wednesday called on protesters to stop occupying major roads in the city’s central business district, and restrain themselves from any unlawful behaviors on Wednesday.
Cheung made the appeal in a video speech released around noontime, as thousands of masked protesters still gathered on major roads outside the government headquarters and the Legislative Council Complex in Admiralty, Hong Kong Island.
The protesters, in opposition to the government’s amendment to extradition bills, occupied the main roads, against the repeated warning by police to leave the sites of the unlawful assembly. The chaos brought serious disruptions to traffic and nearby business activities.
Cheung’s call came after the LegCo announced it will postpone the second reading of the bill to a later time, as the protesters have blocked access for lawmakers to go into the LegCo building.
Cheung stressed that the proposed amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance only deal with suspects who committed serious crimes outside the special administrative region, with specific procedures that characterize the SAR’s rule of law.
He reiterated that the SAR government will strictly safeguard the rights of Hong Kong residents, and the city’s rule of law.
The Colloquium of Six Religious Leaders of Hong Kong issued a statement on Wednesday, echoing Cheung’s call for people to express their concerns through dialogue in a rational and peaceful way.
The protest started in the early hours of Wednesday. Masked protesters, equipped with umbrellas and goggles, built metal barricades confronting the police officers. Some protesters were seen prying bricks from the sidewalk.
Fully equipped riot police officers have been deployed around the LegCo building and the government headquarters. Pepper spray was used against protesters near noon at some sites, after protesters continuously charged police cordon lines.
Entry to the government headquarters has been closed. Staff members have been told to stay inside until further notice.
Several public events have been canceled. Some banks and stores in Central and Admiralty have also temporarily closed due to the protest.
The Labour Department urged employers to give due consideration and be flexible if employees cannot resume work in time because of commuting problems.
The Education Bureau also suggested that schools exercise flexibility for students" lateness or absence, and urged students to stay away from potentially dangerous places and not to take part in unlawful activities.