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Hong Kong"s Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor expressed deep regret on Monday over clashes between radical protesters and the city"s police during an unauthorized assembly in the early hours following Sunday"s mass protest.
She said the police are taking serious action against any illegal conduct.
Lam said the Special Administrative Region government will press ahead with its proposal to amend the city"s extradition law, but promised to make more efforts to address public concerns over the change.
The clashes that Lam described took place during an unauthorized assembly that followed a mass public procession on Sunday against the SAR government"s amendments to the extradition law. At least 240,000 people joined a public procession to oppose the proposed bill, police said.
Currently, the SAR has agreements on reciprocal transfers of fugitives with 20 other jurisdictions, not including Taiwan, Macao and the Chinese mainland. The revision will allow Hong Kong to surrender fugitives on a case-by-case basis to jurisdictions that do not have long-term rendition agreements with the city.
Near the Legislative Council Complex in Admiralty, Hong Kong Island, radical protesters refused to disperse after midnight despite police officers" repeated calls to leave. They later attacked officers and blocked roads, officials said. The unauthorized assembly ended around 6 am after police law enforcement action.
Eight police officers were hurt during the incident, police said. Nineteen protesters were arrested as a result of the clash. Seven were charged with illegal assembly and the rest with attempting to block roads in Wan Chai. About 360 people detained early on Monday on suspicion of participating in the illegal assembly were released.
Police condemned the violence, citing the discovery of dangerous implements like scissors and razor blades at the scene.
Lam, addressing reporters hours after the assembly ended, said the government would not withdraw its proposed amendment, which she called an effective way to prevent Hong Kong from becoming a haven for fugitives.
But she also promised more efforts to address public concerns, worries and anxiety over the bill.
Lam said the SAR government needs to ensure the bill"s human rights safeguards have a legally binding effect on the SAR. Lam also promised the government will provide regular reports to the city"s legislature about the bill"s implementation once it is passed and enacted.
Other dignitaries and political parties in the city also expressed strong disapproval of the clashes.
Commissioner of Police Stephen Lo Wai-chung strongly condemned violent conduct by demonstrators and underlined that police will continue to investigate lawbreakers who hid their identities with masks.
In a statement released on Monday morning, members of the advisory Executive Council, which assists the chief executive in policymaking, also expressed regret over the acts of a small number of protesters.
Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong, the city"s largest political party representing business in the Legislative Council, strongly condemned protesters who adopted violent and illegal means, saying such unacceptable conduct would severely damage Hong Kong"s international reputation.
The bill will go through a second reading at the Legislative Council on Wednesday as scheduled.
In a news conference in Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang stressed that the central government will continue to firmly support the Hong Kong SAR in amending the extradition law.
Geng said the Hong Kong government has attentively listened to opinions from various sectors since February and made changes in the bill in response to public concerns.
An alliance of local political, business and legal figures said a citywide petition campaign that started in April had gathered some 845,000 signatures in support of the amendment as of 6 pm on Monday.