Hong Kong back to work as protesters lie low

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HONG KONG – As heavy morning rain fell on the city on Wednesday (July 3) morning, Hong Kongers, toting umbrellas, got back to work.

Businesses and shops opened and traffic flowed normally on the main thoroughfares on Hong Kong island. Protesters have dispersed.

An uneasy calm has settled on the city after weeks of mass protests, which culminated in the storming of the city’s legislature on Monday. Young protesters carried umbrellas to shield themselves from pepper spray from the police while they broke into the building.

The mob trashed the place, damaging security systems and spraying graffiti inside the legislative chamber, the nexus of administrative power in Hong Kong.

They had been protesting against a controversial extradition Bill, which would allow suspects in the territory to be sent to other jurisdictions, including mainland China.

While the Bill has since been suspended, opposition against it continues. Protesters, who fear the law could be used to target Beijing’s critics, feel that Hong Kong’s autonomy is being eroded, and want it completely withdrawn.

Clean-up work around the financial hub’s Central Government Complex continued into Tuesday night, with ordinary Hong Kongers joining cleaners in taking down posters put up at the site.

Legislative Council (LegCo) president Andrew Leung has said the repair of the legislative headquarters could cost over HK$10 million (S$1.74 million).

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On Wednesday, the LegCo offices remained closed as repairs got underway.

While more unrest is expected, student protesters appear to be lying low for now, with some saying they are fearful of repercussions from their actions.

What you need to know about the extradition Bill protests in Hong Kong

China has condemned Monday’s storming of the LegCo premises, and on Wednesday, state media said confrontations and outbreaks of lawlessness in Hong Kong could damage its reputation as an international business hub and hurt its economy.

“It is not surprising there are some disagreements and even major disputes about certain issues, but if we fall into the whirlpool of ‘overpoliticisation’ and artificially create division and opposition, it will not only serve no purpose, but will also severely hinder economic and social development,” The People’s Daily said in an editorial on Wednesday.

China has called Monday’s violence an “undisguised challenge” to the “one country, two systems” model under which Hong Kong has been ruled for 22 years.

The People’s Daily said the rule of law did not mean a small number of “extremists” should be allowed to conduct violent crimes that would damage Hong Kong’s reputation as an international business city.

It warned that Hong Kong was already under pressure as a result of changes to the global economy and intensifying competition and “cannot bear turbulence and internal friction”.