Hong Kong activists mull next steps

Hong Kong's Police chief defends use of tear gas and rubber bullets during protests.
Hong Kong's Police chief defends use of tear gas and rubber bullets during protests.

Hong Kong's government headquarters have reopened as the number of protesters outside dwindled to a few dozen and life returned to normal in the former British colony.

But the damage repair has begun after a week of protests involving as many as two million people.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam suspended work on the extradition bill that ignited the protests but still faces calls to resign for having tried to push through the legislation, which would allow some suspects to be tried in mainland Chinese courts.

Hong Kong's police commissioner, Stephen Lo Wai-chung, held a news conference where he sought to defuse anger over aggressive police tactics during the protests.

He said only five of 15 people arrested during the clashes were charged with rioting, a serious offence that can result in a prison term of up to 10 years. Another 17 people were arrested on lesser charges.

Lo still defended as appropriate the police response which included the use of tear gas, rubber bullets and steel batons against protesters who removed crowd control and traffic barriers.

Anger over alleged police brutality at the earlier protest became another cause for the massive turnout on Sunday.

The activists have rejected Lam's apologies for her handling of the legislation, which touched a nerve in the city over the increasingly authoritarian Communist rule of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

So far, China has been excluded from Hong Kong's extradition agreements because of concerns over the judicial independence of its courts and its human rights record.

The vast majority of Hong Kong residents fled persecution, political chaos or poverty and famine in the Chinese mainland. They value stability and but also cherish freedoms of dissent and legal protections not allowed for people on the mainland.

Australian Associated Press