It was unclear whether Wednesday’s violence would serve to galvanize opposition to the bill or scare protesters off the streets.
The city was again brought to a standstill on Wednesday, when tens of thousands of mostly young protesters swarmed around the Legislative Council buildings, where lawmakers were due to debate the bill.
Videos from Wednesday’s protest showed police spraying tear gas directly into protester’s faces and beating them with batons.
On Thursday, Hong Kong Police Commissioner Steven Lo Wai-chung said officers had “no choice” but to escalate the use of force.
Lo said protesters hurled bricks, metal poles and planks at police, who responded with “anti-riot measures,” ultimately arresting 11 people. Lo said 22 officers were among the 81 people injured.
He said 19 complaints had been filed against officers, including for assault, which would be investigated.
Amnesty International Hong Kong director Man-Kei Tam said the “ugly scenes” against “overwhelmingly peaceful protesters” was a “violation of international law.”
“This excessive response from police is fueling tensions and is likely to contribute to worsening violence, rather than end it,” Tam said in a statement.
The debate over the proposed law was postponed on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and protesters are hoping they can push lawmakers to drop the bill altogether.
Fears of becoming another ‘mainland city’
Although Hong Kong is part of China, it has a different legal system — a concept known as “one country, two systems.”
Opponents to the extradition bill are concerned that if it is passed, they could be subject to opaque Chinese law, which allows for the death penalty.
Many protestors on Wednesday donned face masks and did not want to be identified or have their faces shown in pictures, with some saying they were worried about future repercussions from China.
Chan Hiu-yung, a 17-year-old high school student, was told by his mother to avoid Wednesday’s protests as they were too dangerous. But he went out anyway, upset that the government had ignored the hundreds of thousands who protested on Sunday.
“I’m more concerned about Hong Kong’s future than my future,” the teenager said.