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The Latest: Protesters refuse to leave Hong Kong streets

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HONG KONG (AP) — The Latest on protests in Hong Kong against an extradition bill (all times local):

8 p.m.

Hong Kong’s police commissioner says only people who committed violence will be charged with rioting during clashes between police and protesters outside the legislature on Wednesday, in an apparent attempt to defuse widespread public anger over aggressive police tactics.

Stephen Lo Wai-chung on Monday defended the police response to the protests by tens of thousands of people as appropriate. It included the use of tear gas, rubber bullets and steel batons against protesters who removed barriers. He described the fracas as a riot, but said only five of 15 arrested people were accused of rioting, a serious charge that can result in a prison term of up to 10 years.

Another 17 people were arrested in the vicinity on lesser charges.

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5:40 p.m.

Protesters in Hong Kong have gathered outside the office of the city’s leader, demanding that she resign for her handling of an unpopular extradition bill.

The mostly young demonstrators blocked a street Monday near the city’s waterfront as they stood outside the office of Chief Executive Carrie Lam, chanting calls for her to give up the proposed legislation.

Lam has apologized for the crisis and suspended work on the bill, which would allow suspects to face trial in mainland Chinese courts.

Protesters are demanding that she scrap the bill and that authorities apologize for how police quelled an earlier demonstration, using tear gas, rubber bullets and other forceful means. They also want the government not to prosecute those involved, and to withdraw Lam’s designation of the protest as a “riot.”

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4:15 p.m.

A member of Hong Kong’s Executive Council has said the city’s leader plans to apologize again over her handling of a highly unpopular extradition bill.

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Lam Ching-choi told reporters that Chief Executive Carrie Lam was sincerely sorry for mishandling the issue, which drew an estimated 2 million people into the streets in protest on Sunday.

He said Monday that the “number does tell the story. A lot of Hong Kong people don’t think the government is thinking very seriously about the present issues.”

He said Hong Kong’s leaders made a “big mistake” in not consulting the public before proposing the legislation.

He said, “I believe she will communicate her apologies to the public in the near future.”

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12:15 p.m.

Joshua Wong, a leader in Hong Kong’s 2014 Umbrella Movement demonstrations, headed to join protesters gathered near Hong Kong’s government headquarters after his release from prison.

After speaking to journalists who mobbed him as he left the correctional facility Monday, Wong laid flowers at a makeshift memorial outside a downtown shopping mall where a protester fell to his death Saturday night after hanging a banner on some scaffolding.

Wong’s release came as protesters were still gathered near Hong Kong’s government headquarters after a protest over an extradition bill promoted by Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam. Organizers said the march drew nearly 2 million people.

“Hello world and hello freedom. GO HONG KONG!! he said in a tweet. “Withdraw the extradition bill. Carrie Lam step down. Drop all political persecutions.”

Wong served half of a two-month sentence for contempt related to his involvement in the 2014 protests advocating a more democratic elections process.

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11:50 a.m.

A former legislator says protesters are angry their demands are not getting a response from Hong Kong’s leader and he sees their current mission as planning for the long term.

After a massive demonstration on Sunday, the remaining protesters who stayed overnight agreed to get off the roads and allow traffic to return to normal in the area Monday morning. They say the suspension of the extradition bill that set off the past week’s demonstrations was not enough. They want the bill to be dropped entirely and for leader Carrie Lam to resign.

Former Hong Kong legislator Lee Cheuk-yan says the activists’ mission has become a long-term struggle and not a daily struggle. “So if Carrie Lam does not respond to the five demands by the protesters, people will come back and the struggle will continue.”

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11 a.m.

Joshua Wong, a leading figure in Hong Kong’s 2014 Umbrella Movement demonstrations, has vowed to join the latest protests after he was released from prison.

Wong’s release Monday came as protesters were gathered near Hong Kong’s government headquarters after a protest on Sunday that organizers said drew nearly 2 million people.

He told journalists that he needed a bit of time but that “no matter what happens, I will join the protest soon.”

Wong served half of a two-month sentence for contempt related to his involvement in the 2014 protests advocating a more democratic elections process.

The latest protests were set off by an extradition bill that would allow some criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China for trials. The legislation has been suspended but residents worry it is a sign of weakening judicial independence in Hong Kong.

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10:50 a.m.

Protesters in Hong Kong have begun leaving the streets and gathering near the city’s government headquarters.

The demonstrators who stayed after a massive protest march the day before were seen streaming Monday morning into a space outside Hong Kong’s Legislative Council after police who had cleared it reopened the area.

Their decision to leave major streets allowed police to reopen them to traffic, averting the possibility of clashes similar to those that broke out June 12, resulting in about 80 people being injured.

The government building was closed Monday.

Activists were staging strikes and other smaller events Monday. There are demanding that Hong Kong Chief Executive scrap a proposed extradition bill that she has suspended under intense pressure from residents worried it would undermine legal protections in the former British colony.

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8:30 a.m.

Protesters in Hong Kong have refused police requests to clear the streets.

A policewoman using a loudspeaker asked them to cooperate Monday morning as police lined up several officers deep and faced them.

A woman in black speaking for the protesters responded with her own microphone. She said they were not blocking anyone from getting to work and would leave only after Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam came to hear them out.

Police removed some of the barriers protesters had set up but refrained from using force. The protesters later put the barriers back and remained.

They are among hundreds who stayed overnight after a huge protest Sunday against a bill that raised fears about China’s control of Hong Kong.

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8:15 a.m.

Hong Kong police and protesters are facing off Monday morning as authorities try to clear the streets of a few hundred people who stayed near the city government headquarters after massive demonstrations that stretched deep into the night.

The police asked for cooperation in clearing the road. Protesters responded with chants, some kneeling in front of the officers. The move came after activists rejected an apology from the city’s top leader for her handling of legislation that has stoked fears of expanding control from Beijing in this former British colony.

Nearly 2 million of the city’s 7 million people turned out on Sunday, according to estimates by protest organizers. Police said 338,000 were counted on the designated protest route in the “peak period” of the march.

The Western Journal has not reviewed this Associated Press story prior to publication. Therefore, it may contain editorial bias or may in some other way not meet our normal editorial standards. It is provided to our readers as a service from The Western Journal.

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