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Hong Kong Protests: Police Using Water Cannons, Pepper Spray; Crowds Force Government to Postpone Extradition Bill Debate. Aired 4- 5a ET
Aired June 12, 2019 - 04:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
[04:00:45] MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Thanks for joining us. I'm Max Foster in London for CNN NEWSROOM. We've got breaking coverage for you.
The government of Hong Kong demanding mass crowds of protesters unblock key roads and withdraw tens of thousands of people who've been filling streets around the legislative council that led the government to postpone its debate surrounding an extradition bill.
Some 5,000 riot police have been deployed around the city. But protestors have been rearranging barricades and making their own fortresses. CNN teams on the ground witnessed police using pepper spray to try to disperse crowds around the legislative council. But as you can see, many have come wearing masks and headgear, as well.
Despite mounting pressure, even death threats, Hong Kong's chief executive, Carrie Lam, is standing firm. She insists the bill, which would allow Beijing to extradite fugitives in Hong Kong back to the mainland -- mainland will be passed as soon as possible.
Let's get the latest from Andrew Stevens. He's live there. Our senior international correspondent, Ivan Watson, is also in Hong Kong. He'll join us in just a moment.
First of all, Andrew, take us through what you're seeing.
ANDREW STEVENS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Max, just in the last 15 minutes or so, the situation here has changed dramatically. It was fairly calm. Protesters, tens of thousands of protestors behind those umbrellas. I don't know if you can see them behind there -- were -- they were listening to political rallies, pro-democracy rallies. The police were within 300 or 400 meters on the perimeter of this area. But they have now changed their tactics completely.
And as you can see, the police have moved right into the very confrontational position. Between the police and that line of umbrellas there is a jumble of barricades, which have been tied together, stitched together by protesters. And then beyond that, you have literally tens of thousands of mainly
young Hong Kongers who are there and saying they're going to stay there until they get the government to back down on this very controversial extradition bill.
Again, just about ten minutes ago, we heard some -- some reports of some sort of ordinance being fired; and there were waves of gas floating across the crowd coming in from the -- from the right-hand side of the legislative council building.
And we saw also quite a few of the protesters moving backwards across this way. We've also seen live footage of pepper spray and water cannon being used on protestors, diametrically opposite from where we are on the other side of the council building.
So obviously, the police are now moving. They want to clear this area. They've been stationed here at this position now for the past ten minutes or so, not moving.
I've also seen dozens of more riot police moving long roads (ph) on the other side of the council building into position behind these buildings you can see here. So there is -- there is -- looks like an encircling movement going on with the police at the moment.
As you can see, the police are pretty heavily armed. They've got their riot gear on. I can see guns which -- which fire off tear gas canisters and pepper spray, as well. So obviously, the police are here. They look like they want to clear this out. They want to get this done. Because if you think back to 2014, the Occupy Movement, the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong, it started with youth in Hong Kong. It ended up with a sit-in, an occupy of central Hong Kong and the financial district for about 80 days.
Clearly, the government is not prepared or does not want to do that, see that happen again, see those images flashing out across the road, across the world, excuse me. And it looks, at this stage at least, as if the police are going -- preparing themselves, at least, for a much more aggressive position over the next few hours.
FOSTER: Presumably, that's in preparation for a possible, you know, push into the building itself. Legislative council building, which is something, obviously, the police wouldn't allow.
STEVENS: Because -- Yes, excuse me, Max. I've just moved out of the way. Because now you can see clearly those tear gas canisters have been -- have been fired off right in front of the council building just to the left of where that smoke is going up now -- That vapor is rising -- is the main entrance to the legislative council, which has been where most of the protesters have been gathering over the past -- over the past 12 or 14 hours or so.
[04:05:06] Sorry, Max. I did miss the question you -- you'd asked me.
FOSTER: Presumably, the line will be crossed for the authorities, the police there when, if there's any sort of push into the legislative council itself, which is what some of the protesters have been talking about.
STEVENS: Sorry, Max. I missed that. Could you just repeat that?
FOSTER: Are they preparing, you know, for protesters possibly trying to get into the building itself?
STEVENS: Right. There was a -- there was calls for the protesters who stormed the building earlier. This was on social media. By the same -- at the same time, there were also calls on social media for the protesters not to confront the police. So there's a bit of a mixed message coming out.
But obviously, a storming of the building, and this is the Parliament of Hong Kong. A storming of the Parliament would be unacceptable to the people -- the police of Hong Kong, to the government of Hong Kong, as it would be to any government anywhere in the world. So that is a red line that protesters have not crossed. They have come up hard against the barricades and some parts of the area around the legislative council building, which is virtually ringed by protesters now.
Some protesters have come up hard. The barricades, they've been pushed back with pepper spray, with water cannon. We've also seen water cannon used in the last half an hour or so.
But at this stage, there has been, from what we can gather, at least, no concerted efforts to try to storm the building.
FOSTER: The authorities had hoped, presumably, that by delaying the second reading of the bill, that would dissipate the crowds and sort of help reduce the tensions. But that hasn't been the case, has it? So does that suggest to you that the authorities have lost control of the momentum here?
STEVENS: Well, it's two sides of the same coin. Because the other side of that is that the protests were claiming victory, saying that they had forced the delay of the bill, which only made their intentions stronger to stay here until they got somebody what they want, which is a complete withdrawal or scrapping of the bill.
So yes, you could say that, by delaying it, it sets the determination of these -- of these protesters. But these are young protesters. Remember, they have been out before. We saw that in the Occupy Movement.
But this is a vastly different scene. It's important to remind our viewers of this of just a -- just a couple of days ago where we saw protesters, organizers saying one million people taking to the streets in Hong Kong to protest against this bill. And that was people from all walks of life. It wasn't just the youth of Hong Kong.
So there is a very broad-based coalition in Hong Kong who are against this bill. We've seen protests from lawyers, for example, a silent protest on Friday with 3,000 or so lawyers marching in the streets of Hong Kong. We've seen the business community reacting strongly against this bill,
which is very unusual in Hong Kong to see the business community so far out of step with the government.
And so, we've seen older people, younger people all joining up, all linking up -- We saw that on Sunday -- to protest against the bill.
At the moment, what we have here is much more of the young people being brought in or who have decided to make this stand here. We knew there was calls earlier for a general demonstration here. But there have been a lot of -- a lot of younger people, motivated and mobilized by social media here -- Max.
FOSTERS: OK. Ivan is also on the ground in the city. What are you seeing, Ivan, from where you are?
IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Max.
I'm not very far from where Andrew is. I'm on a -- on a flyover for the highway that has been cut off by this protest movement that has encircled the headquarters of the city government.
And the scenes that we see in the distance here, I have to say, Max, we'll pan the camera back towards that -- that scene -- are very reminiscent of the beginning of the Occupy Movement of 2014.
Young Hong Kongers calling for the resignation of the chief executive. It's a different official now. It's Carrie Lam, not C.Y. Leung. Mobilized by a different piece of legislation this time around.
But similar tactics. We see barricades that the demonstrators built out of the police barricades, the traffic barricades. They've used the same umbrellas that we saw in 2014 during that sit-in, that Occupy Movement. And we hear the demonstrators repeating some of the same, even protest chants that we heard five years ago to mobilize the crowd. So it's almost deja vu, Occupy 2.0 taking place here in downtown Hong Kong.
What we've seen thus far is that the protesters have succeeded in a short-term goal, which is to postpone the second reading of this controversial piece of legislation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gunshots, gunshots, gunshots.
[04:10:00] WATSON: And I hear some ordinance going off. It may very well be tear gas again being fired, which is what triggered some of the Occupy Movement, again, five years ago.
We're going to pan over to the right, where there's a man who says he's a journalist, who says he was hit with pepper spray and has blotches from that.
Just a second, because I'm hearing blasts in the distance. Sure, sure. What happened to you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was some democratic party legislators. They want to go to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and met the police. And we tried to get close and photograph the legislators. The police screamed at us. And about two to five --
IVAN: Were you hit with pepper spray? Is that what this is?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
IVAN: OK, now hang on. Max, we've got teargas coming. And we're at this location, because their cell phone bandwidth is not very good right now. So we've had to pull back a little bit.
But from where Andrew was standing is now enveloped in tear gas, which may be coming my way. So I may have to put on a gas mask in a minute.
But we're just trying to give you a sense of -- we're going to move now. Let's pick up off the sticks, Natalie, and take a closer look.
OK. We're going to go back to Andrew, who's in the thick of things. Let's take a look at what he's seeing right now.
STEVENS: I don't know if you can hear me through this mask. You can see there have been -- several rounds of tear gas have been fired in between -- OK, I'm going to have to take that off for the moment.
There have been several rounds of -- and you see the gas still being fired into the crowds at the moment. The gas is drifting mainly towards where the protesters are.
There is a line of riot police direct -- directly opposite me here. But the most of the riot police, as you see, are standing in front of those barricades. And you can see beyond the barricades as the tear gas starts to -- starts to clear up, how the protesters have been forced backwards.
And you're now seeing the police moving forwards to start dismantling those -- those barricades. Those barricades have been pulled together the last four or five hours. Originally, obviously, they were there to be used by the police. Now they're being used against the police.
But the protesters seem to be making what looks like a pretty orderly retreat at this stage, heading back in the direction of the legislative council building, while the police go through those -- those barriers on their way to getting ever closer to the -- to the protesters.
But as Ivan was saying, this is very reminiscent of the Occupy Movement in the police using tear gas in the early part of the -- of the movement to really try to clear protesters, which actually failed.
I'm just going to ask the cameraman to swing the camera around there. You see there's been -- there's been reinforcements coming up the -- up the road now. More -- more riot police, all wearing gas masks, as you can see, joining their colleagues.
As the -- as the remnants of the barriers are being swept away in front of us. And beyond that, there is more tear gas being utilized, and it's blowing up an alleyway, which is where many, many of the protesters are actually based.
And that wind is blowing the gas up in the direction of the main entrance to the council building, the Hong Kong Parliament building where so many of the protesters have been protesting for the past 12 hours or so. Well, the police, as you can see, are now through the barriers and are moving towards the -- towards the protesters.
We are being advised to move back where we're standing at the moment. But it seems to be that we are in a relatively safe position as the police move further down.
And you can hear a young woman standing next to me, screaming with anger. And she's crying, as well, at what is -- what has been happening here.
This is not the first time I've seen that. It's just -- OK, I'm just going to let -- let the images speak for themselves now.
(SHOUTING IN A FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
[04:15:12] I can hear a lot of people behind us also screaming in anger at the police but not confronting them. They're pulling back to -- There is one protester I see who's standing right in front of the police, pleading with them, by the looks of it, to stop this action.
As we focus on what's -- what's going on ahead. And you will see protesters now veering off into what is, in fact, a car park to try to move away. But the police now certainly claiming this area towards the -- towards the legislative council building. It seems to now be virtually empty of -- of protesters at this stage.
But they also seem to be walking quite a leisurely -- a leisurely way away from the tear gas, away from that -- that wall of police.
It looks like the police have regrouped again just beyond the barriers, waiting for their next strategic move. You see protesters there coming back out of that. That was essentially a dead-end car park. So they're coming out.
They can seek -- they can get to shelter there. Those buildings you see on the left-hand side, they are all open. So there are escape routes for those protesters if they choose to take them.
You see right in front of us now, we have a line of riot police around us, facing us. We are standing on a traffic island.
FOSTER: So as you can see, riot police getting into position. Tear gas. We're hearing reports of pepper spray, as well, being used on protesters there in Hong Kong.
This has all flared up, literally, in the last half hour after relatively peaceful protests about the second reading of the repatriation bill that's caused so much controversy.
It was actually delayed, that bill, presumably in the hope of allaying the concern amongst protesters. But that hasn't been the case, and the police are having to respond in a way that you can see.
But there are all sorts of barriers that they're having to clamor over. You can also see the umbrellas that have been picked up from local stores, which are very reminiscent of the umbrella protests, of course.
And Andrew, would you say the protesters involved today are continuing the same theme, really, as the previous protests people will remember, known as the Umbrella Movement?
STEVENS: Yes, I think so, Max. I think it is -- it is -- it's an occupy. It looks like an occupy technique (Ph). And listening to people that the younger Hong Kongers there, talking to them over the past few hours. Not one of them said, "I'm here just for a short time." They said, "I'm here until the job is done." And by that, they mean until the government withdraws that very controversial extradition bill.
What we're not seeing, what we haven't seen, even though they have blocked off a key road going into the center of Hong Kong, it's called Hard Court Road. They did that in 2015. And quite soon afterwards, there were tents springing up, and that became the epicenter of the Occupy Movement.
We have not seen that to date. We have seen -- remember, this is only 12 hours old. What we have seen is basically a lot of young protesters just standing in front of the barricades, singing, chanting, clapping. No overt aggression generally at all.
In fact, there have been -- there's been a Christian group down there, right in front of the main entrance, holding out white flowers to show that they mean no harm and singing -- singing hymns.
So I'll just come back on camera. So there was clearly a -- a mood that they did not want to escalate this to -- to violence, Max. By the same token, they weren't going anywhere either. So this could well, as Ivan was saying earlier, this could well have become the general -- the beginning of another Occupy Movement.
FOSTER: I don't know what you think, Andrew. You've been in these situations many times. But when you hear this -- this tear gas fire off, it often causes more problems than anything else, because everyone rushes towards the same area, and that creates a sense of panic. But presumably, the police are concerned enough to risk that to try to get people to clear the area.
STEVENS: Well, it's interesting you say that. Because we were having that conversation a little earlier when -- when the numbers seem to have reached their peak. Tens of thousands.
And we were saying to each other it was almost now too big to disperse. Because if you did fire tear gas into a crowd like that, you would trigger a stampede, which could lead to serious consequences.
[04:20:08] But the crowd has thinned out somewhat after the postponement and the reading of this bill. And as we saw, where those tear gas canisters went off, and there were multiple canisters used, there was a reasonably orderly movement by the -- by the protesters back towards that black building, the Parliament building behind us where you now see that line of police. So they've reclaimed this part of the -- of the area around the legislative council building.
Where -- what I can't see and what I can't tell you is there is another very, very big site on this main arterial road I was telling you about, Harcourt Road, where there were thousands and thousands of people. I can't tell you whether they have been using tear gas there, as well, and if they have what the result has been.
But they have been using some water cannon. And again, looking at video of that, they're just pushing the crowd back, not in a stampede, not in a panicked way, but just pushing them back nonetheless.
And I haven't seen any, from our vantage point, at least, any signs of real panic, real stampedes from -- from these protesters. And again, just to reiterate, a lot of those, particularly those in the front line, look like they are equipped to deal, at least partially, with an attack by tear gas. You know, they had goggles. They had fairly sophisticated face masks. Some actually had proper gas masks like these. So they were prepared, to some degree, in case this did -- did end like it apparently seems to be ending now.
FOSTER: OK. Andrew, thank you. We're going to take a quick break. We're going to stick with this coverage, though, ongoing now as we try to make sense of the latest clashes and where those huge crowds that were in that area we're looking at right now have gone.
Stick with us. We've got reporters on the ground.
FOSTER: Taking it to Hong Kong. Clashes. You see the riot police lining up there. They've been moving that sort of canopy around. You see the umbrellas that have been tossed aside. These are from protesters. Very reminiscent of the Umbrella Movement, the Occupy Movement that we saw recently flare up in Hong Kong.
Now, that area was full of protesters. They've been dispersed after we saw tear gas being used. Also reports of pepper spray and water cannon, as well. We don't know quite where they've gone. There was a flurry, not a panic, but there was a flurry, as they headed out of that area.
Ivan is on the ground. Ivan, what can you tell us?
WATSON: Well, it's still a very fluid situation right now, Max. As you can see, the highway here, even this flyover that I'm standing on, barricaded by the demonstrators on the south side of the legislative council as the demonstrators are still going in full force, despite use by the police of pepper spray and of tear gas on other parts of this area. (AUDIO GAP)
FOSTER: OK. We've got some issues. WATSON: -- itself around the headquarters of the city government.
FOSTER: OK. We've got some issues with Ivan's camera. Lots of actual journalists actually reporting some issues with the Internet connectivity. We can hopefully speak to Andrew, who's looking at the same scene, but from a slightly different angle -- Andrew.
[04:25:10] STEVENS: That's right. We're down on the ground here where it's behind me now. The scene has changed dramatically just in the last 15 minutes or so.
The police have cleared the barriers after a barrage of tear gas was let loose onto protesters who were hard up against the barriers on the other side.
When the gas cleared, the protesters had fallen back. The police quickly went through those barriers. And as you see now, they're regrouping further beyond the -- quite close to where the legislative council is.
So this is where we are at the moment. All the police who were wearing tear gas masks just a few minutes ago, they've now replaced them with what looked like riot masks, and they're holding riot shields.
But at the moment, Max, where we are, they have cleared out this area. This was one of the frontline areas, if you guess. The -- the protesters have pushed back the perimeters of the protest site, if you like, using barricades which were meant for the police. And they had drawn the line, as you see, across there. They had put that jumble of barricades up. They'd -- they'd tied them together, and they were hunkered down behind them.
And that situation stayed like that for several hours until probably 45 minutes ago when the police, who had been keeping about a 300-meter distance, started advancing in order with riot shields, letting off tear gas, and pushing the protesters back and actually clearing the protesters from this area.
The whole operation probably took about 15 to 20 minutes. And from what I can see, it was not a panic. I couldn't see stampeding protestors trying to get out of the way of the tear gas. But certainly, it has removed them very effectively from this part of the demonstration.
But on the opposite side of this building, there are also thousands and thousands of protesters. We've seen video of water cannon being used. We've seen video of pepper spray. And there have been some pops, which could suggest tear gas is being used in that area, as well. So this does look like a coordinated action by the police, as you would expect it would be, to clear these protesters out as quickly and as efficiently as they possibly can.
FOSTER: We're looking at the shots from high above where Ivan is.
Ivan, a huge amount of riot police appear to be moving in. And we can see again all the tear gas firing off and some flames, as well. Are these riot police moving in and reinforcements or are they just repositioning?
WATSON: From this perspective, we can see that the protesters pushed south. Not only on the ground by these clouds of tear gas right next to the legislative council building, but also on the overpass, the pedestrian overpass that leads to that building. That bridge.
And so understandably -- very, very -- (AUDIO GAP) these demonstrators, mostly dressed in black running back. Moments ago, the riot police in front of the barricade here on the highway were taking their gas masks off and now were putting the gas masks back on.
Max, there's a dilemma here for both the protesters -- for both the protestors and the city officials. When nearly 1 in 7 Hong Kongers were out on the streets on Sunday, demanding that the extradition draft law be withdrawn, the chief executive of the city said, "No way. We're going to go ahead."
(AUDIO GAP) don't understand the law. Well, this is the end result of a predominantly youthful group of protesters, much smaller that have used a different tactic. (AUDIO GAP)
FOSTER: All right. OK, we've got some problems there, obviously, with the connection higher up there. Andrew is on the ground.
Andrew, from the shots that we're seeing from above you, there's a huge amount of movement. We're currently looking at the police pushing forward in quite large numbers. But there's also a massive sway of people being swung around and protestors being swung around. I mean, what's your concern here? It seems in control at the moment, but it feels at the same time as if they could lose control any moment, as well.
STEVENS: Well, absolutely. It's obviously very, very finally balanced this, Max, when you're moving a crowd of this size, using the sort of -- the sort of anti-riot gear that they are deploying with pepper spray, water cannon and, specifically, tear gas.
And if you called in tear gas, you do not want to be anywhere near it. So it's a -- it is a delicate operation. I can't actually, from where we are, I can't see what is happening. But I can only imagine it's the same rule book, which is that the riot police assembling in force, tear gas used retreat by protesters and police then establish that ground futher on and so on and so on.
They have done it here, there were -- behind me which this street is now clear virtually, there would have been several thousand protesters there. They were cleared out within 15 or 20 minutes or so. I don't -- I have not heard and we have not heard of any reports of casualties but certainly, they moved them quite quickly.
So using that playbook, where you're looking, I suspect Max is, it looks like that was the key assembly point for many of these protesters. It was a big protest. And I believe Ivan is working his way around there now. So that would be more problematic here because of these -- the sheer numbers involved.
MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: OK. Andrew, thank you. I've got Nic in the studio. Just briefly, Nic we're going to go to break, you've covered many of these sorts of situations. How do you think they're handling it at the moment?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Tear gas, of course, is an imprecise tool because it depends on the wind. You have high buildings there and it's a confined area, so that ability to corral a crowd by the police is not an easy one for them. But what we've seen, we've seen Andrew talked about it, Ivan talked about it, they've seen the police reinforcements arrived.
Once it became clear, you had that massive protest, the police allowed them to sit behind the barricades for several hours. Then the police moved them. It did seem as if the police waited until they have the numbers. Because once you start trying to move the protesters, you then have to deny them the ability to come back in and control that area.
FOSTER: They would go somewhere as well, haven't they?
ROBERTSON: Of course. And the police will have a plan of where they want to move the protesters away from the sort of central areas where they might try to occupy an area. But again, this is where the imprecise nature of tear gas comes in. It could blow back on the police. It doesn't hang in an area perhaps as long as the police would like it to hang or it forces the protesters where the police were anticipating them to go.
It takes a lot of police to control, to really control and corral this number of protesters.
FOSTER: Andrew, we're looking at some ambulance workers moving someone on a stretcher. That may well just be the effects of tear gas. But tear gas has different effects on different types of people, right?
OK. We're going to try Ivan because Ivan is looking down on the scene. Ivan, we're just seeing someone being stretchered away. Obviously, only one person which is a very small number in relation to the thousands out on the street. But the tear gas obviously starting to affect people and also the crowding, you know, is going to be affecting people as well.
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, in these kinds of situation where emotions are high, the authorities are using non-lethal weapons essentially to try to move people around. Crowds are liable to panic and run and they can trample over each other in a moment of panic.
I've seen a man just moments ago walking around with first aid, sign up in the air. And we see organizers, demonstrators kind of taking it into their own hands to help somebody who may have been hit by pepper spray or to move the barricades that they've erected even on this traffic flyover that I'm standing on right now which clearly doesn't have any vehicular traffic, which just shows you how downtown Hong Kong has been brought to an utter and complete standstill by this grassroots protest movement.
These young Hongkongers enraged by a piece of draft legislation that would prick a hole theoretically in Hong Kong's judicial system to allow Mainland China to extradite people to the mainland to face China's far more opaque and capricious judicial system. And that's what this is all about.
So I asked two young Hongkongers minutes ago, 21-years-old. Hey, were you here five years ago during the Occupy movement. They both said, no, we were too little then. So this is their first for example taste of standing up to the city authorities and by extension standing up to one-party rule on Mainland China.
FOSTER: So what we're looking at is, you know, the main road is really leading toward the legislative council where this draft bill was meant to be debated. It's obviously been delayed.
Nic, in terms of the pressure here -- I mean, this is -- you know, the bill was only a draft and it got delayed and we had this reaction --
OK, let's get back to Ivan.
[04:35:01] WATSON: So, police have evidently fired fresh tear gas right into the crowd here on the highway in Central Hong Kong which was allowed, these demonstrators ten of thousands of them were not bothered before. And now we can see protesters hurling canisters back towards the riot police to the north of them. And I saw similar scenes five years ago at this very same location, Max. This is where the Occupy sit-in that lasted some 79 days erupted five years ago. A very similar scene of demonstrators under that same pedestrian bridge on the same stretch of highway here.
Except, a difference is that some of these young Hongkongers that I've spoken with were too young to protest five years ago. And this is their first time coming out against a piece of legislation that they insist must be scrapped.
The government here in Hong Kong argument is hey, you people of Hong Kong (INAUDIBLE) on Sunday, you simply don't understand the legislation we've proposed. And that argument doesn't seem to be working with the young people who have now been hit by tear gas and they're now throwing tear gas canisters back at the riot police.
I don't know where this will go. We know how it fizzled out during some 79 days of protests in the same area five years ago and we're just at the beginning of this what we're seeing here today.
FOSTER: Also, there were reports run there from Mainland China that perhaps the police weren't aggressive enough last time around because they allowed this extended sit-in that you're just been describing. They want to try to avoid that happening again. So that might be informing their tactics currently as well, Ivan.
WATSON: So far, what we're seeing is a standoff between the city authorities and the semiautonomous sit-in.
FOSTER: OK. We're struggling a bit with Ivan. I mean, what do you think is that, Nic? They're going to be -- they're going to want to avoid this massive extended sit-down that they had last time.
ROBERTSON: This seems to be exactly the type it was in play when Ivan witnessed that Occupy protest four years ago. It describes a situation where the protesters are in exactly the same place where that movement began that Occupy protest. And then he reports that the police are firing tear gas right into the middle of the crowd. Now, tear gas is often fired sort of towards the front of the crowd to move them back. But when you fire it into the middle of the crowd, that tells you one thing and one thing alone that the police want to disburse the crowd from that area as a matter of extreme urgency.
So it does seem in this case that the police are trying the means that they have available right now to stop people beginning a sit-in type protest because that would really drag out this issue at the moment. The government just delayed the second reading of the bill. But, you know, an Occupy protest down there might change the dynamic of that and it does appear.
We don't know about the orders of the police have been given. We don't the directive that they have at the moment. But certainly, they have the knowledge of how they tackle the Occupy protests before and what it can mean if they lose control in these early days of protest. And it does seem at the moment that, you know, when -- again, I go back to the point that Ivan said, when you see tear gas fired in the middle of the crowd, that is an extreme effort to move that crowd rather firing it at the front.
FOSTER: Andrew, you're on the ground, and this is going to be really riling up for people watching on TV as well. And presumably, that could actually inflame the crowds further or at least encourage greater numbers.
WATSON: Max, that's a very interesting point because what perhaps differentiates the 2014 umbrella movement from this extradition bill movement is that that one million people who protested (INAUDIBLE) organized these numbers. We saw on Sunday was a broad cross-section of Hong Kong. It wasn't just young people.
I was down there. It was all ages, families from very young to very old, all with a single unity of purpose to fight against this bill. I've been to several big protests in Hong Kong and it's not uncommon that you see various groups with their own grievances coming along to protest for their own specific reasons. But this on Sunday was all about this one bill and it was a broad cross-section of the community.
And we heard from that the general secretary of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions which had some 200,000 members calling on its members to support this movement against the extradition bill.
[04:40:08] And I spoke to the general secretary just a couple hours ago and he is calling for a general strike and he is calling for his members to come out next Monday because he says it takes time to organize and to do it. And this -- remember this bill that has been postponed in parliament, the second reading of this bill, they had allotted 66 hours to read this bill. So, once the reading starts again, it's going to take several days before they move to the next phase which means that there could be, next Monday a couple hundred thousand Hong Kong workforce coming down to the streets.
Yes, they are going to be enraged by what they see on television. Because there has been such unity and purpose against this bill, a unity of purpose which is being ignored by the Hong Kong government in so many ways at the moment. So, I would suggest and I asked the question of the general secretary of the trade unions, you know, how many people you're expecting to get out. He said, I don't know, we've never done this before as a political movement, we've done it as an economic -- on economic issues, on pay issues but never on politics, so I don't know.
But, he said that he expected a good turnout that was Honk Kong is going to be turning on --
FOSTER: All right. Andrew, we'll just be going to cross to Ivan because Ivan got some quite extraordinary scenes of the reinforcements being brought in.
WATSON: Yes. Max, I'm going to get out of the shot so that you can see we have riot police approaching from a different direction from the east here towards the square. Well, that de facto square where the demonstrators have gathered by the tens of thousands. They're putting on gas masks right now which to me it signifies they're about to ramp up what they are doing here.
And it's clearly creating warnings from some of the pedestrian protesters here that are on these overpasses. This is a large number of riot police now being brought in, again, putting on their gas masks. It looks like they're preparing for some kind of movement against the demonstrators.
It's very fluid right now, Max. I'm seeing tear gas at the other side towards the west of here in the crowd of tens of thousands that have been targeted before. So, there is clearly a standoff here, a test of wills between a predominantly youthful group of protesters, some of which were too young to participate five years ago in the Occupy sit- in, and the city authorities who are, I guess, trying to reopen the main arteries of this international financial hub.
FOSTER: The numbers still look tiny though compared with the number of protesters. And those numbers are swelling from what we can tell. But presumably, there's, you know, setups like this around the city or the bulk of the security forces just in that area, Ivan? WATSON: It's hard to tell from our vantage point but clearly large parts of downtown Hong Kong, the central area have been blocked off by this protest movement. So, we're talking the main highways that run through the city. I'm standing on a traffic flyover. I mean, this is something that cars would be whizzing over normally on any day.
I mean, that roadway there would be full of traffic and it has brought the center of the city to a complete halt, and it's very reminiscent. I mean, this is the Occupy sit-in of 2014 2.0. It's very reminiscent for me of what I witnessed in these same streets. And so now we can see the riot police, some of them moving forward yet again. And we're going to spin around and I don't know if our signal will hold up, but we'll show you the scene on the other side of this flyover.
And our broadcast is spotty right now, and we don't know if that's because of pressure on the wireless networks or the sheer numbers of people that are out there. So that's why we're at this location and not in the middle of it.
Somebody just fired fireworks over there. But you can see the tear gas over there and demonstrators -- what happened? My IFB just switched. OK.
FOSTER: OK. We've just got -- yes, you can see that the tear gas is being fired up. Now, you can also hear some of the shouting as well. I mean these bangs really don't help when there are large crowds of people. But we don't know what the bangs are being created by.
Emily Lau joins me, she's a former Hong Kong lawmaker.
[04:45:01] Emily, what's your reaction to this? Is this anything like you expected?
OK. We're having some connection problems with Emily.
She can't hear me but -- hi, Emily Lau, can you hear me? This is Max Foster. We clearly can't get a hold of her. Nic, looking at these pictures, one wonders how these pictures are being received in Beijing. They've already delayed the hearing --
EMILY LAU, FORMER CHAIRWOMAN, THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY: I can hear you.
FOSTER: They can't do much more actually. Sorry, Nic, we're going to -- we've got Emily now.
Emily, I'm just wondering what you're making of these images we're seeing off Hong Kong right now?
LAU: I'm horrified. And the thing is, it is so senseless and so unnecessary just because Carrie Lam wants to (INAUDIBLE) this bill through the legislature and it has attracted tens of thousands of people. And how many tear gases do they have to fire and these people are not going to go away. They should have learned the lesson in 2014, the occupation. So it is so unnecessary.
FOSTER: Sorry, Emily, I just want to -- who were you saying is unnecessary, the protesters or the lawmakers?
LAU: No, the bill. The bill that the administration of Carrie Lam. She wants to rush it through the legislature, the bill to extradite people to the mainland. And the people who are now gathered there, I mean, in your screen you can see, they don't want the bill to be rushed through. And there is no urgency. I mean, why does Carrie Lam have to do this?
FOSTER: Well, she's responded hasn't she by delaying the bill.
LAU: No, she hasn't. Today, today actually in the legislative council, they were going to stop the so-called debate and next Thursday, Thursday next week, they will vote on it. So they will be finished by Thursday next week, my dear.
FOSTER: Do you think Beijing will perhaps suggest that this bill needs to be delayed further and the, you know, whole process slow down?
LAU: Yes, Beijing supports her. She proudly told the audience last night, she said she has Beijing's full support. But, that's not the point. She hasn't got the Hong Kong people's support. And most of the protesters you see on your screen are very young people, secondary school and university students.
Why do we have to attract them onto the streets like that and then beat them up and then shoot at them and use tear gas on them? What's going on in Hong Kong?
FOSTER: The scenes that we're looking at around the legislative council and there are huge amounts of riot police that have responded. But it does seem relatively in control at the moment. Are you concerned they might lose control?
LAU: Well, I think they had lost control already. That's why they fired tear gas. So, it is really very, very reprehensible. And I call on the international community to come out and condemn them, the police and the Carrie Lam administration.
FOSTER: We see another lineup of riot police moving along. It's very intimidating isn't it for these young people as you say. But, I mean, that's the point, isn't it?
LAU: Exactly. And it's so unnecessary. Why? Why tarnish Hong Kong's image like that over such a silly bill?
FOSTER: What's the solution then?
LAU: Well, a political solution. We need to talk, delay the process. Let everybody calm down. There is no hurry.
FOSTER: Who is representing the protesters as far as you're aware? Is it a single group? Is there someone that the chief executive can speak to?
LAU: Nobody. FOSTER: Well, that's the problem isn't it? How can they have a political process?
LAU. No. But -- well -- but if Carrie Lam would come out to say she delays the process, the bill will not be rushed through (INAUDIBLE). I'm sure many of these young people will go home. And then we will see will see how we proceed.
Foster: OK. Emily Lau, I appreciate you joining us on this very dramatic time in your city. We'll be back in just a moment.
[04:51:45] FOSTER: All right, thousands of protesters facing off with police, although this is one area that's being cleared in Hong Kong by the huge amounts of police. You can see that we had tear gas, we've had a pepper spray reports and also water cannon being used to disperse those protesters. All furious about this extradition bill which was due to be debated today in the legislative council but it was delayed.
That actually didn't sort of disperse of feelings though. It actually inflated them which is why we got this situation. And there are thousands of protesters out there out to (INAUDIBLE) they're been forced into other areas. So we're monitoring it very closely indeed.
Andrew Stevens, what can you see?
STEVENS: Actually, we just been able to move from our position that the police kept us those pinned in where we were. We've come to the other side of the barriers now. And if you can see that, let's just swing the camera around and you'll see. This is the barriers from the protester's side of things. And you can see that they have taken a lot of material and (INAUDIBLE) it together.
And what's being left behind, we got water bottles and umbrellas of course. We've also got these paving stones and bits of the scaffold by the looks of it. We don't know what those paving stones were to be useful. Someone had said that they are going to try to be thrown on the road to impede vehicles. We don't know that maybe in uses projectiles. We just don't know that.
And if you just turn across we'll see someone just being taken out. We have one of the protesters being taken out on a stretcher with an oxygen mask on. We don't know what's the -- what his injuries may or may not be. But certainly, this area there was a sea of protesters really only about so, maybe one hour ago. And it is now being completely cleared out by police using tear gas.
And just so on that point, there has been a press conference by the commissioner of police in Hong Kong who has confirmed that the police have indeed used batons, paper spray, paper-based solution, rubber bullets, and hand-thrown tear gas. And he -- the commission of police is urging residents now to stay away from the area.
On the other side of this building, you see here, we can't get to it, but that is where the -- as I understand of the bulk of the protesters are still active. And I've been told by the police to keep hold of our gas mask because there is the likelihood that more gas will be used in dispersing the protesters here.
You see the police regrouping across here and dead ahead now, we have the legislative council building. That is where most of the protesters were concentrated. And now has been, as you see, completely cleared out. And just the treatise of a protest left in its white mixer. But this area, and if we turn to the right, we'll get there in a minute, but this was another hot spot for protesters who are also have been cleaned out over that area.
We've got a couple of (INAUDIBLE) here, a lot of umbrellas still.
[04:55:00] So really, Max, this has been cleared out. We're going to get around to this corner and see what's going on. If we can just -- I can hear shouting still so there is still some action. But I can see now the main gate of this legislative council building. I don't know if we can get it through here. There is a white gate there.
That is the entrance to -- that's the main entrance to the legislative council building. That is where most of the protesters were concentrated. It's a fairly narrow area but there were a lot of people there. And they have all now being cleared out. As they have pretty much across the street.
But I want to hand it over to Ivan now because Ivan, I can see where we're standing some clouds of tear gas.
WATSON: Yes, Andrew, I'm not very far from you. The riot police have brought in come in with larger numbers. They're armed with batons right now. They've got their gas masks on. And they've been moving aside the traffic barriers that some of the protesters have used as barricades right now and seemed to be preparing for a push on this -- the eastern side of the de facto city that has set up here.
We see the signs going up that says warning, tear smoke. And we've already been seeing tear gas canisters sent into the crowd here again and again over the course of the last hour. And there are hundreds of riot police below me, below this traffic overpass that are moving. You can see these guys running in.
And we have to move back mostly because our broadband -- there's a salvo of tear gas canisters fired in the direction of the protesters. That is sending thousands of these young people running. And now a push by the riot police to push back the protesters who had for hours encircled the head quarters of the city government.
Max, I was standing on this very same overpass in 2014 when riot police used these similar tactics against Hongkongers, it led to a sit-in that lasted 79 days here. I don't know what will happen as a result of these tactics. Once again demonstrated five years later on the streets of this former British colony.
Max? FOSTER: By delaying the debate, the authorities clearly hoped they would avoid all of this but it didn't work. So they're going to think of something else now, presumably.
WATSON: The debate may have been delayed by sheer logistics. How do lawmakers get into a building that is surrounded by tens of thousands of screaming young Hongkongers? It may have just been logistically delayed. But the protesters succeeded in doing what organizers will say were more than a million peaceful protesters on the streets of Hong Kong failed to do on Sunday which is delay a debate that the city authorities were determined to push forward with.
When the city -- when the Chief Executive Carrie Lam said we're going to move forward on this on Monday after this unprecedented street protest on Sunday, the end result is young Hongkongers barricading the entrances to city hall. And it sets up a far more tense situation than we saw when much larger numbers of hundreds of thousands of demonstrators were peacefully protesting on the streets. Which lesson will the protesters and the city authorities draw from the course to the last three days?
That is not clear to me. For now, the security forces are moving in to try to push the young protesters away from where they've been occupying the center of the city.
I'm going to go back to Andrew now who is several hundred yards from where I'm standing right now. What are you seeing, Andrew?
STEVENS: Thanks, Ivan. Yes, I have been walking as you can see. I'm walking up behind the riot police on both sides of these roads. And the area directly in front has virtually being cleared off protesters.
So I can see a sea of helmets ahead of me into the right of me. I can see the remnants of the protesters gathering on -- this Hong Kong road. This is one of the main thoroughfares of Hong Kong. This is an area which was a -- it's a central to the Occupy movement back in 2014.
The police are slowly advancing along. They are wearing gas masks as you can see on both sides of this barrier here which is now being cleared off protesters. And I'll just let this -- just let (INAUDIBLE) go with the police for the moment.