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Hong Kong police remain on high alert for more unrest

Police officers stand guard in front of the Legislative Council in Hong Kong on June 13, 2019, a night after a violent clash with protesters opposing a bill that would allow the extradition of criminal suspects to mainland China. (Kyodo)

HONG KONG (Kyodo) -- Hong Kong authorities remained on high alert near the legislature building Thursday, a day after violent clashes broke out between police and people protesting a bill that could extend Chinese influence and undermine liberties in the territory.

On Wednesday, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters who had surrounded the territory's government complex, leaving around 80 people injured, two seriously, according to the government.

Police stationed a large number of armed officers around the Legislative Council in heavy rain on Thursday, as large piles of trash, including broken umbrellas, helmets, masks, cans and bricks, remained strewn along the streets.

Elsewhere in the vicinity of the legislature, protesters had apparently dispersed after an overnight standoff with police. Nearby roads that had been occupied by protesters the previous day returned to normal.

The city's government headquarters, located near the legislature, will be closed through Friday, local media reported. However, the city's largest outbreak of political turmoil in years may not yet be over as tensions between citizens and police continue to simmer.

With tens of thousands of people on the streets, Wednesday's protest forced the legislature to postpone a session scheduled to debate the bill.

The legislature also canceled a full council meeting scheduled for Thursday.

Hong Kong lawmakers had been expected to vote on the legislation on June 20, but it has now become unclear when the vote will be held.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, however, has pledged not to withdraw the bill which would allow the extradition of wanted suspects to jurisdictions with which Hong Kong has no extradition deal, such as mainland China and Taiwan.

Opponents of the bill say that if it is passed Chinese authorities could abuse it to crack down on pro-democracy activists, journalists and anyone critical of the Communist Party-controlled government.

"We cannot give up until the bill is scrapped," said a man in his 20s who participated in Wednesday's protest.

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