You are here

Hong Kong protesters run riot in legislature, smashing up doors and walls

doc7616mqhp8xvzz6g9afd_doc7616qosk9431cwh09m8b.jpg
Protesters break into the Legislative Council building during the anniversary of Hong Kong's handover to China in Hong Kong, China July 1, 2019. They ran riot in the building, smashing up paintings, doors and walls amid widespread anger over proposed laws that would allow extraditions to China.

doc7616mqhp8xvzz6g9afd_doc76176vd9nqx1gbuy0hbu.jpg
Protesters break into the Legislative Council building during the anniversary of Hong Kong's handover to China in Hong Kong, China July 1, 2019. They ran riot in the building, smashing up paintings, doors and walls amid widespread anger over proposed laws that would allow extraditions to China.

doc7616mqhp8xvzz6g9afd_doc76178qeh2vnyvhiaovs.jpg
Protesters break into the Legislative Council building during the anniversary of Hong Kong's handover to China in Hong Kong, China July 1, 2019. They ran riot in the building, smashing up paintings, doors and walls amid widespread anger over proposed laws that would allow extraditions to China.

[HONG KONG] Hong Kong protesters ran riot in the legislature building on the 22nd anniversary of the city's 1997 return to Chinese rule on Monday, smashing up paintings, doors and walls amid widespread anger over proposed laws that would allow extraditions to China.

Some carried road signs, others corrugated iron sheets and pieces of scaffolding upstairs and downstairs as about a thousand gathered around the Legislative Council building in the heart of the former British colony's financial district.

A small group of mostly students wearing hard hats and masks had used a metal trolley, poles and scaffolding to charge again and again at the compound's reinforced glass doors, which finally gave.

Hong Kong’s government slammed protesters late Monday for storming the city’s parliament, accusing demonstrators of deploying “extreme violence”.

“Radical protesters stormed the Legislative Council Complex with extreme violence,” the statement read.

“These protesters seriously jeopardised the safety of police officers and members of the public. Such violent acts are unacceptable to society.”

Britain's support for Hong Kong and "its freedoms is unwavering", Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said on Monday, but warned anti-government protesters against violence after they stormed the city's parliament.

The prime ministerial candidate tweeted "to stress UK support for Hong Kong and its freedoms is UNWAVERING on this anniversary day.

"No violence is acceptable but HK people MUST preserve right to peaceful protest exercised within the law, as hundreds of thousands of brave people showed today," he added.

The European Union called for restraint and dialogue to find a way forward as hundreds of Hong Kong protesters smashed up the legislature in a direct challenge to China.

"In the wake of these latest incidents, it is all the more important to exercise restraint, avoiding escalatory responses, and to engage in dialogue and consultation to find a way forward," a spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement.

"The actions today of a small number of people, who attempted to force their way into the Legislative Council premises, are not representative of the vast majority of demonstrators, who have been peaceful throughout successive protests."

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam suspended the bill on June 15 after some of the largest and most violent protests in the city in decades, but stopped short of protesters' demands to scrap it.

The Beijing-backed leader is now clinging on to her job at a time of an unprecedented backlash against the government that poses the greatest popular challenge to Chinese leader Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012.

"The kind of deafness that I see in the government this time around despite these protests is really worrying. The complete disregard for the will of the people is what alarms me," said Steve, a British lawyer show has worked in Hong Kong for 30 years.

"If this bill is not completely scrapped, I will have no choice but to leave my home, Hong Kong."

Opponents of the extradition bill, which would allow people to be sent to mainland China for trial in courts controlled by the Communist Party, fear it is a threat to Hong Kong's much-cherished rule of law and are demanding it be scrapped and Mrs Lam step down.

Hong Kong returned to China under a "one country, two systems" formula that allows freedoms not enjoyed in mainland China, including freedom to protest and an independent judiciary.

Beijing denies interfering but, for many Hong Kong residents, the extradition bill is the latest step in a relentless march towards mainland control.

China has been angered by criticism from Western capitals, including Washington and London, about the legislation. Beijing said on Monday that Britain had no responsibility for Hong Kong any more and was opposed to its "gesticulating" about the territory.

Tens of thousands marched in temperatures of around 33 degrees Celsius from Victoria Park in an annual rally. Many clapped as protesters held up a poster of Lam inside a bamboo cage.

More than a million people have taken to the streets at times over the past three weeks to vent their anger.

A tired-looking Lam appeared in public for the first time in nearly two weeks, flanked by her husband and former Hong Kong leader Tung Chee-hwa.

"The incident that happened in recent months has led to controversies and disputes between the public and the government," she said. "This has made me fully realise that I, as a politician, have to remind myself all the time of the need to grasp public sentiment accurately."

Beijing's grip over Hong Kong has intensified markedly since Mr Xi took power and after pro-democracy street protests that gripped the city in 2014 but failed to wrestle concessions from China.

The extradition bill has sent jitters across all sectors of Hong Kong in an unprecedented backlash against the government.

Tensions spiralled on June 12 when police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at anti-extradition protesters near the heart of the city, sending plumes of smoke billowing among some of the world's tallest skyscrapers.

The uproar has reignited a protest movement that had lost steam after the failed 2014 demonstrations that led to the arrests of hundreds.

Activists raised a black bauhinia flag to half mast outside the Legislative Council building before the rally and turned Hong Kong's official flag, featuring a white bauhinia flower on a red background, upside down.

The turmoil comes at a delicate time for Beijing, which is grappling with a trade dispute with the United States, a faltering economy and tensions in the South China Sea.

Opponents of the extradition bill fear it would put them at the mercy of China's justice system, where human rights are not guaranteed.

Beyond the public outcry, the extradition bill has spooked some of Hong Kong's tycoons into starting to move their personal wealth offshore, according to financial advisers, bankers and lawyers familiar with the details.

REUTERS,AFP