On Thursday a few hundred protesters milled around with some sorting their supplies of face masks and food as a widespread clean-up around the city’s legislature took place.
Security remained tight with scores of uniformed police with helmets and shields in the area, while a long row of police vans were stationed alongside. Plain clothes police officers checked identification of morning commuters.
The Hong Kong Hospital Authority said 72 people had been hospitalised by 10 p.m. on Wednesday.
The extradition bill, which will cover Hong Kong residents and foreign and Chinese nationals living or traveling through the city, has sparked concerns it may threaten the rule of law that underpins Hong Kong’s international financial status.
Wednesday night was the third night of violence since a protest on Sunday drew what organisers said was more than a million people in the biggest street demonstration since the 1997 handover.
Overnight several thousand demonstrators remained near the legislature in the Admiralty district, while thousands more retreated to the Central business district, overlooked by the towers of some of Asia’s biggest firms and hotel chains, including HSBC and AIA.
Hong Kong’s benchmark stock exchange slid 1.5% down in early trade on Thursday, extending losses from Wednesday afternoon as tensions escalated.
Ken Lam, a protestor in his 20s who works in the city’s food and beverage industry, said he would remain on strike until the bill was scrapped.
“I don’t know what the plan for protesters is today, we will just go with the flow, but we think the turnout will be smaller than yesterday and it will be peaceful, after what happened yesterday,” he said.
Most roads around the central business district were opening for traffic on Thursday, but Pacific Place, a prime shopping mall next to the legislature, remained closed. Banks including Standard Chartered, Bank of China and DBS said they had suspended branch services in the area until further notice.
Banks based in the Central district – the financial heart of the city – emphasised it was ‘business as usual’ but many offered staff, where possible, the option of working from home.
“As a precaution, we shut two outlets early where the protests were taking place. Our priorities are the safety of our employees and supporting our customers,” said HSBC, whose ground-level public space at its headquarters has previously been a focal point for protests.
Hong Kong’s China-backed Chief Executive Carrie Lam condemned the violence late on Wednesday and urged a swift restoration of order.
While acknowledging the controversy, Lam has refused to postpone or withdraw the bill, which she and her officials say is necessary to plug “loopholes” that are allowing the city to be a haven for criminals wanted on the mainland.
Lam has said the courts would provide human rights safeguards in vetting case-by-case extraditions to mainland China.
Opponents, including leading lawyers and rights groups, say China’s justice system is marked by torture and forced confessions, arbitrary detention and poor access to lawyers.
Democratic lawmakers in an improptu media standup in the legislature on Thursday strongly criticized Lam’s heavy handed police response.
“We are not a haven for criminals, but we have become a haven of violent police. Firing at our children? None of the former chief executives dared to do that,” said legislator Fernando Cheung.
“But ‘mother Carrie Lam’ did it. What kind of mother is she, I have never seen such a evil hearted mother.”
Chinese state media said in editorials published on Thursday that the protests were “hammering” Hong Kong’s reputation.
“It is lawlessness that will hurt Hong Kong, not the proposed amendments to its fugitive law,” said the English-language China Daily.