Hundreds of activists have staged a protest in Hong Kong, forcing themselves into one of the territory’s main government buildings.
The protesters, gathering on the anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to Chinese rule, stormed the Legislative Council building, spray painted the walls as they protested a controversial extradition bill.
Crowds could be seen slamming items into its entrance before eventually making their way inside, where they proceeded to daub slogans over the walls and destroy pictures.
One piece of graffiti, written in English, read: “HK Gov f***ing disgrace.”
Some carried road signs, corrugated iron sheets and pieces of scaffolding upstairs and downstairs, as they destroyed pictures in the building on their way.
A crowd of around a thousand people gathered around the Legislative Council building in the heart of the former British colony’s financial district.
The police did not immediately intervene as the premises was overrun, despite having been involved in a standoff with those gathered outside throughout the day.
The council, the mini-parliament, issued a red alert and ordered the protesters to leave immediately.
The Legislative Council Secretariat released a statement cancelling business for Tuesday and the central government offices said they would close on Tuesday “owing to security consideration”.
The government also called for an immediate end to the violence, saying it had stopped all work on extradition bill amendments and that the legislation would automatically lapse in July next year.
There was no immediate response from the protesters.
Riot police in helmets and carrying batons earlier fired pepper spray during the standoff, which began earlier in the day and continued into the sweltering heat of the evening.
Banners hanging over flyovers at the protest site read: “Free Hong Kong.”
Authorities collided with anti-government demonstrators throughout the day, with activists demanding revocation of the bill that would allow extradition to mainland China.
Large crowds were seen facing-off in streets across Hong Kong, as police clad in riot gear forced them back with batons.
Millions have taken to the streets in recent weeks to protest against the now-suspended extradition law, demanding it be scrapped and Hong Kong’s Beijing-backed leader Carrie Lam step down.
Monday’s action coincided with an annual pro-democracy march, which saw millions take to the streets.
Those opposing 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 rule of law and are demanding it be scrapped.
“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 who 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.”
The embattled leader of Hong Kong pledged to be more responsive to public sentiment, as the protesters clashed with police outside a flag-raising ceremony on Monday.
This has made me fully realise that I, as a politician, have to remind myself all the time of the need to grasp public sentiments accurately,” said Carrie Lam in a five-minute speech to the gathering in the city’s convention centre.
“I will learn the lesson and ensure that the government’s future work will be closer and more responsive to the aspirations, sentiments and opinions of the community.”
Ms 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 uproar over the bill reignited a protest movement that had lost steam, after pro-democracy demonstrations in 2014 failed to force concessions from Beijing.
The July 1 anniversary marks the handover of the former British colony in 1997, under a deal to ensure its autonomy.
Beijing has denied interfering, though many Hong Kong residents see the extradition bill as the latest step in a march towards mainland control.
Source: Evening Standard