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Riot po­lice fire tear gas at pro­test­ers Wed­nes­day out­side the Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil in Hong Kong. Po­lice have used tear gas, rub­ber bul­lets and high-pres­sure hoses against thou­sands of pro­test­ers op­pos­ing a highly con­tro­ver­sial extraditio­n bill. Story on

HONG KONG — Fol­low­ing a day of sit-ins, tear gas and clashes with po­lice, Hong Kong students and civil rights activists vowed Wed­nes­day to keep protest­ing a pro­posed extraditio­n bill that has be­come a light­ning rod for con­cerns over greater Chi­nese con­trol and ero­sion of civil lib­er­ties in the for­mer Bri­tish colony.

The vi­o­lence marked a ma­jor es­ca­la­tion of the big­gest political cri­sis in years for the semi­au­tonomous Chi­nese ter­ri­tory and forced the de­lay of leg­isla­tive de­bate on the con­tentious bill.

Col­lege stu­dent Louis Wong said he con­sid­ered the block­ade of gov­ern­ment head­quar­ters and the Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil a success be­cause it ap­peared to pre­vent Bei­jing loy­al­ists from ad­vanc­ing amend­ments to a pair of laws that would make it eas­ier to send sus­pected criminals to China.

“This is a public space and the po­lice have no right to block us from stay­ing here,” Mr. Wong said, sur­vey­ing a garbage-strewn in­ter­sec­tion in the Ad­mi­ralty neigh­bor­hood that had been blocked off by se­cu­rity forces af­ter pro­test­ers broke through a po­lice cor­don and en­tered the gov­ern­ment com­plex.

“We’ll stay un­til the gov­ern­ment drops this law and [Chi­nese Pres­i­dent] Xi Jin­ping gives up on try­ing to turn Hong Kong into just another city in China like Bei­jing and Shang­hai,” he said.

Pro­test­ers who had massed out­side the gov­ern­ment build­ing overnight Tues­day be­gan press­ing against the po­lice early Wed­nes­day, lead­ing to po­lice fir­ing tear gas and pep­per spray.

The over­whelm­ingly young crowd over­flowed onto a ma­jor down­town road as they over­turned barriers and tus­sled with po­lice. When some ap­peared to have breached a cor­don around the build­ing, the po­lice launched their re­sponse.

A week­end protest of the extraditio­n mea­sure drew hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple, and Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said in a state­ment early Thurs­day that the peace­ful rally had be­come a “bla­tant, or­ga­nized riot.”

At a brief news con­fer­ence held as the chaos swirled out­side on Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon, po­lice Com­mis­sioner Stephen Lo Wai-chung said the “se­ri­ous clashes” forced po­lice to use pep­per spray, bean bag rounds, rub­ber bul­lets and tear gas.

Of­fi­cers also were hurt, some se­ri­ously, by rocks, bot­tles, traf­fic cones, metal bar­ri­cades and other items thrown by pro­test­ers. Po­lice spokesman Gong Weng Chun de­fended the use of tear gas and other non­lethal weapons, say­ing of­fi­cers wouldn’t have had to do so if they weren’t fac­ing a threat that could lead to se­ri­ous in­jury or death.

As of 10 p.m. Wed­nes­day, at least 72 peo­ple were brought to seven hos­pi­tals, with two in se­ri­ous con­di­tion, the Hong Kong Hos­pi­tal Au­thor­ity said. Of those, 41 were later re­leased, it added.

Com­mis­sioner Lo called the demon­stra­tion a riot, which could mean long jail terms for anyone ar­rested.

Vin­cent Yu/As­so­ci­ated Press

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