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HK protesters swarm police building as crisis drags on

People protesting outside police headquarters in Hong Kong on Friday.

Hong Kong

EMBOLDENED protesters turned their focus on the Hong Kong Police Force in a new round of rallies, surrounding the agency's headquarters and demanding authorities drop charges against demonstrators over clashes with law enforcement last week.

Hundreds of protesters converged on the police complex in the Wan Chai district on Friday in the latest demonstration to disrupt services in the Asian financial hub.

The group had walked over from the nearby central government complex, which Chief Executive Carrie Lam pre-emptively shut amid protest threats, and also occupied the city's immigration building. As of 7pm, hundreds remained gathered on the streets outside the government headquarters.

Opponents have called for the extradition bill's complete withdrawal, Ms Lam's resignation and for the government to rescind its description of a rowdy June 12 protest outside the Legislative Council chamber as a "riot situation".

The Hong Kong protests have turned out hundreds of thousands of people and drawn global attention to growing anxiety over China's commitment to the former British colony's autonomy. The disruptions come at an awkward time for the government, with Chinese President Xi Jinping due to meet US President Donald Trump next week on the sidelines of the Group of 20 (G-20) summit in Japan.

Police charged 15 demonstrators - including five with rioting offences - after the June 12 clashes, which authorities blamed for forcing them to unleash pepper spray, tear gas and rubber bullets on the crowds. Eighty-one people were injured. Opposition lawmakers grilled the city's security chief on Wednesday on the use of force.

Rallies outside the police headquarters on Friday were led by former student leader Joshua Wong, himself released only on Monday after serving one month in jail for his role in organising the 2014 Occupy Central protests.

Mr Wong, 22, refused to speak with lower-ranked police negotiators and demanded a meeting with Police Commissioner Stephen Lo, who made the "riot" remark that angered demonstrators.

While tensions occasionally rose as police attempted to gain access to their building, the protests remained peaceful throughout the day on Friday as the number of demonstrators ebbed and flowed.

Police officers standing sentry outside put up a sign warning against crossing their cordon, but avoided confrontations and didn't don riot gear.

The protesters later moved to the neighbouring Immigration Tower, another government building, prompting other nearby offices and shops to close.

Meanwhile, opponents of the extradition bill looked to capitalise on the global attention, planning a "G-20 Free Hong Kong Assembly" on Wednesday ahead of the meeting of leaders of the world's largest economies.

A major demand of the Civil Human Rights Front - which helped organise some recent demonstrations - is an investigation into what it calls excessive violence and abuse of power. Ms Lam has stood by Mr Lo and defended his tactics as necessary to prevent protester attacks on the police. BLOOMBERG