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Thursday June 27th, 2019 4:31AM

The Latest: China backs Hong Kong's handling of protests

By The Associated Press
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HONG KONG (AP) — Latest on the protests in Hong Kong over proposed extradition legislation (all times local):

4:45 p.m.

China's government says it supports Hong Kong authorities' handling of massive protests against an extradition bill after police used tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets on largely peaceful demonstrators.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Thursday the protests in Hong Kong are "not a peaceful rally, but a blatant, organized riot."

He added that "no civilized society ruled by law will tolerate illegal actions that undermine peace and tranquility."

Geng also said that China condemns "interference" by the European Union in China's internal affairs. The EU released a statement saying rights "need to be respected" in Hong Kong and "restraint should be exercised by all sides."

Opponents of the extradition bill fear it would subject people in Hong Kong to vague charges and unfair trials in mainland China.

___

4:40 p.m.

Hong Kong's hospital management body says public hospitals in the city were treating 79 people for protest-related injuries as of 11 a.m. Thursday morning.

A statement from the Hospital Authority said 56 of the injured were male and 23 were female. The figures included both civilians and police officers.

Hong Kong's legislature suspended meetings Thursday following clashes between police and protesters who oppose a bill that would allow people to be sent to mainland China for trial.

Police officers fired tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets at demonstrators on Wednesday.

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4 p.m.

Taiwan's leader says the protests in Hong Kong this week show that the "one country, two systems" framework under which the territory returned to China cannot work.

President Tsai Ing-wen told reporters Thursday that the Hong Kong government should listen to its people and not rush to pass the legislation that sparked the protests.

Hong Kong is a former British colony that was returned to China under a "one country, two systems" arrangement under which it received semi-autonomy and greater freedoms than mainland China.

China wants Taiwan to reunite with the mainland under a similar framework.

Tsai said the protests show the arrangement cannot work.

___

3:30 p.m.

A Hong Kong legislator says young people there have lost faith in the police force and their government following violent clashes with protesters opposed to legal changes that could see accused suspects sent to China for trial.

Labor Party Vice Chairman Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung told The Associated Press that the relationship between citizens and the authorities "has been completely deteriorated."

Cheung said Thursday, "We've seen (the police) use extreme forces which are not proportional to the demonstration."

Officers used tear gas, pepper spray and anti-riot guns that can cause serious injuries. Cheung said the widespread use by protesters of facemasks and their unwillingness to be identified by name was understandable given the authorities' growing tendency to file heavy charges for seemingly mild public disorder offenses.

___

1:25 p.m.

Encrypted messaging app Telegram says it was hit by a powerful cyberattack that has coincided with massive protests in Hong Kong.

Telegram CEO Pavel Durov tweeted Thursday that the attack came from mostly Chinese IP addresses.

He says: "Historically, all state actor-sized (attacks) we experienced coincided in time with protests in Hong Kong (coordinated on @telegram). This case was not an exception."

Hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets of Hong Kong in recent days to protest an extradition bill that would allow people to be sent to mainland China to stand trial. Activists in both Hong Kong and mainland China, where Telegram is blocked, frequently use the messaging system to organize protests in hopes of evading government surveillance.

Telegram says the attack merely affects connectivity and no data has been compromised.

___

11:45 a.m.

A Hong Kong Legislative Council official says no time has been set aside for debate on a highly controversial extradition law that has drawn large-scale protests.

The announcement Thursday from council official Cicely Wong appeared to show the impact of Wednesday's street demonstrations, along with statements of concern from foreign governments, business associations and the legal profession. Those voices have joined with human rights and supporters of the free press who have long warned of growing restrictions on civil rights in the former British colony that returned to Chines rule in 2019.

Traffic was restored in the city the day after the clashes between police and protesters who oppose the legislation that would allow criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China where they could face unfair trials on political charges.

___

11 a.m.

After days of silence, Chinese state media is characterizing the largely peaceful demonstrations in Hong Kong as a "riot" and accusing protesters of "violent acts."

Hundreds of thousands of people filled streets in Hong Kong in recent days to oppose proposed legislation that would allow crime suspects to be extradited to mainland China, where critics say they would be subject to vague charges and unfair trials.

In an editorial featuring a photo of a bloodied officer, the state-run China Daily said Wednesday evening that protesters are using the bill "to tarnish the image of the government."

Xinhua state news agency said protesters used "sharpened iron poles" and bricks against police.

Police officers fired tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets at demonstrators Wednesday. About 70 people were hurt.

___

10 a.m.

Traffic has been restored in the heart of Hong Kong a day after clashes between police and protesters who oppose legislation that would allow criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial.

Heavy rain Thursday morning kept fresh protests from following those Wednesday by thousands of activists who shut down government headquarters and the Legislative Council on the day it was to debate the extradition bill. More than 70 people were hurt.

Police fired tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets after well-organized protesters breached their cordon, forcing the assembly to postpone the debate.

Protesters said they were seeking to block the passage of the legislation they see as part of Beijing's moves to tighten its grip over the former British colony.

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