A tense calm descended on Hong Kong early on Tuesday, hours after police fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters who had stormed the legislature in chaotic scenes to protest against an extradition bill in a direct challenge to Beijing.
Debris including umbrellas, hard hats and water bottles were the few signs left of the mayhem that had engulfed parts of the Chinese-ruled city overnight after protesters stormed and ransacked the legislature.
Police cleared roads near the heart of the financial center, paving the way for business to return to normal following extraordinary violence on the anniversary of Hong Kong’s 1997 return to Chinese rule.
However, the former British colony’s government offices, where protesters smashed computers and spray-painted “anti-extradition” and slurs against the police and government on chamber walls, were closed on Tuesday
Millions of people have taken to the streets in the past few weeks to protest against the now-suspended extradition bill that would allow people to be sent to mainland China to face trial in courts controlled by the Communist Party.
Hong Kong’s embattled leader Carrie Lam suspended the bill on June 15, saying she had heard the people “loud and clear”, but she stopped short of protesters’ demands to scrap it.
Lam called a news conference at 4 am (2000 GMT) to condemn what were some of the most violent protests to rock the city in decades.
The Beijing-backed leader is now clinging to her job at a time of an unprecedented backlash against the government that poses the greatest popular challenge to Chinese leader Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012.
The extradition bill, which would have covered Hong Kong’s seven million residents as well as foreign and Chinese nationals, was seen by many as a threat to the much-cherished rule of law in the city that returned to mainland rule under a “one country, two systems” formula.