Hong Kong anti-government protesters have stormed the city’s legislature after breaking glass doors and prising open gates at the rear.
A group of demonstrators had been ramming doors and windows around the complex since Monday afternoon, despite warnings from police in riot gear that they may face arrest.
Officers appeared to retreat deeper into the building after protesters entered, smashing through a metal shutter.
Protesters inside the legislature spray painted the walls with graffiti, reading “[Chief Executive] Carrie Lam step down,” “the government forced us to revolt” and “Oppose Chinese colonialism,” among other slogans.
An unidentified liquid was thrown onto walls as barricades were carried into the complex by protesters.
Pictures of Legislative Council President Andrew Leung and former president Rita Fan were defaced.
Portraits of Andrew Wong and John Swaine – two presidents who served before the 1997 Handover remained untouched, as did a picture of Jasper Tsang, who was president between 2008 and 2016.
Protesters eventually entered the main chamber of the building where the Hong Kong emblem was spray-painted black.
A protester stood on the president’s desk saying that the government must respond to their demands.
A banner read “there are no rioters, only a tyrannous government,” as one demonstrator destroyed a copy of the Basic Law.
A British colonial flag – often used in protesters – was also unfurled at the president’s chair.
Pro-democracy lawmakers Fernando Cheung, Au Nok-hin and Ray Chan were seen in the main chamber.
They said they would try to calm the situation down. “But there is not much we can do,” Chan said.
Leung Kai-ping, a former editor of the HKU student magazine, urged others to stay and occupy the legislature: “If we don’t stay here, we will be painted as rioters on television tomorrow… Our faces have all been recorded. If we leave, Hong Kong’s civil society will go backwards ten years and we will never be back here.”
In a statement, the government urged protesters to leave the legislature: “This evening, some radical protesters stormed the Legislative Council Complex with extreme violence. These protesters seriously jeopardised the safety of police officers and members of the public. Such violent acts are unacceptable to society. The HKSAR Government strongly condemns such acts, and protesters should stop violent acts immediately.”
Police announced at around 10:21pm that they would soon clear the protesters.
Police have condemned the “illegal entry” into the legislature, calling the protesters a “mob.” They said they will soon take measures to clear the area.
— Hong Kong Free Press (@HongKongFP) July 1, 2019
Meanwhile, huge crowds continue to swarm nearby Harcourt Road and Tim Mei Avenue, which remains occupied by thousands of demonstrators. Many, clad in black and white, joined after attending the annual July 1 pro-democracy rally.
The storming of the legislature follows weeks of protest sparked by a controversial extradition bill, which would allow the chief executive and local courts to approve fugitive transfer requests without legislative oversight to jurisdictions where there are no such agreements – most notably, China.
The bill was suspended on June 15, but not axed. The protests have morphed into a wider public display of discontent over alleged police brutality against protesters, among calls for democracy and for Chief Executive Carrie Lam to resign.
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