Hong Kong police seek two suspects after small blast outside assembly

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 10, 2015 1:53 AM

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Hong Kong police are investigating a small fire and explosion outside the city's legislature hours after a contentious copyright bill, which opponents say will restrict freedom of expression, had been up for debate.

Police said they were seeking two suspects in connection with arson outside the Legislative Council on Wednesday night when a fire was lit in a rubbish bin, followed by an explosion. No one was injured.

The blast came after a council debate on the copyright bill was adjourned when not enough legislators turned up.

Legislative Council President Jasper Tsang issued a statement expressing grave concern and condemning "the dangerous act which could cause bodily harm".

Police said it was not clear if the blast was linked to the debate, according to public broadcaster RTHK.

The bill aims to amend the city's copyright laws by extending the protection of copyright owners to the Internet.

The former British colony enjoys considerable autonomy and freedoms denied in mainland China by its Communist leaders, including academic freedom, broad individual rights and an independent judiciary.

Opponents of the copyright legislation worry it could restrict freedom of speech, creativity and political satire in a city chaffing at what many residents see as a gradual whittling away of liberties by the Beijing government.

Activists have called for a rally outside the Legislative Council next week to protest against the bill.

Last year, tens of thousands of protesters blocked major roads for weeks in a push for full democracy, presenting Beijing with one of its most serious challenges in years.

The pro-democracy campaign has not mounted a similar challenge this year although activists still yearn for a fully democratic vote for the city's leader in future elections.

Beijing insists only approved candidates can stand in the election.

(Reporting By Yimou Lee, additional reporting by Donny Kwok; Editing by Robert Birsel)