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Protesters storm HK legislature, smashing walls, doors amid extradition Bill anger

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Protesters holding up a sign after they broke into Hong Kong's legislature on Monday night on the 22nd anniversary of the city's handover from Britain 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 way.

The government slammed the protesters for storming the city's parliament, accusing them 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."

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

"In the past few years, people have been getting more active, because they found the peaceful way is not working," said a 24-year-old protester surnamed Chen.

Opponents of the 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.

A tired-looking Mrs 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." REUTERS, AFP