Anti-extradition bill protesters (L) are surrounded by police supporters during a rally organized to back police force, in Hong Kong, China June 22, 2019. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
HONG KONG (Reuters) – Thousands of protesters who had blockaded police headquarters in Asia’s leading financial center had mostly dispersed by Saturday morning with some roads reopened for traffic as normal but it remained unclear whether further mass protests would take place.
Hong Kong has been bracing for a third weekend of widespread protests against an extradition bill that has plunged the Chinese-ruled city into crisis, posing the greatest popular challenge to President Xi Jinping since he took power in 2012.
On Friday groups of mostly students wearing hard hats, goggles and face masks set up roadblocks and trapped vehicles in a generally peaceful protest to demand that leader Carrie Lam, who promoted and then postponed the bill, scrap it altogether.
Police removed barricades early on Saturday morning while staff were able to go home, after a more than 15 hour blockade. Only a few hundred protesters remained.
In a statement early on Saturday, police said the acts of the protesters had seriously affected their work including the provision of emergency services to the public.
“Police have shown the greatest tolerance to the protesters…but their means of expressing views have become illegal, irrational and unreasonable. Police will stringently follow up on these illegal activities.”
Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997, since when it has been governed under a “one country, two systems” formula that allows freedoms not enjoyed in mainland China, including a much-cherished independent judiciary.
Reporting by Farah Master; editing by Simon Cameron-Moore