Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp has urged unity following Monday evening’s occupation of the Legislative Council by protesters.

Following the end of the annual July 1 pro-democracy march, hundreds stormed LegCo’s rear entrance. The masked protesters vandalised the interior, spray-painted anti-government graffiti on the walls and unfurled a colonial flag in the main chamber. They departed before midnight, when riot police deployed tear gas to clear the surrounding roads.

Photo: Todd R. Darling.

In a Tuesday morning statement, march organisers the Civil Human Rights Front asked the public to stand on the side of the “egg” rather than the “high wall”.

“Hongkongers have been frustrated at their movement’s stalemate. Some are sad, some are in despair, some are angry. Who among us has not faced a conflict of emotions? Who among us has not contemplated escalation, with no answer?”

Photo: Todd R. Darling.

“Although we have no hopes of seeing such acts, prompted by tyranny, we understand the choice made by resisters. Last night, a group of students took a gamble without regard for their own selves, and were actually braver than any of us.”

“We can have different views on these actions, but we urge you all not to blame [the protesters] and not to distance yourselves [from them].”

Photo: Kris Cheng/HKFP.

Earlier, pro-democracy legislators in a joint statement attributed the events to Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s refusal to face the public and communicate with protesters.

“She has rejected facing society, ignored the demands of the people and pushed youngsters towards desperation.”

Photo: Todd R. Darling.

41 pro-Beijing legislators, however, urged the public – as well as their pro-democracy counterparts – to condemn the actions.

“[We] urge the wider peace-loving public, who believe in Hong Kong’s core values, to distance themselves from [the protesters], and jointly send them a message that they cannot disrupt societal order,” they said in a statement.

Photo: Todd R. Darling.

“We call on our pro-democracy colleagues to distinguish between black and white, and condemn these extreme radical violent elements, and protect the rule of law.”

The chairs of the nine New Territories District Councils – dominated by pro-Beijing councilllors – similarly called the acts a “riot” in a press conference, reported InMedia.

Photo: Kris Cheng/HKFP.

At 4am Tuesday morning, Lam held a press conference at police headquarters, where she likewise condemned the protestors’ actions.

The occupation of roads surrounding the legislature began in the early morning, but by around noon, some anti-extradition bill protesters charged the complex’s outer glass doors.

Photo: Todd R. Darling.

Facing little police resistance after they broke through in the evening, protesters displayed the colonial Hong Kong flag, graffitied political slogans on walls, and took down portraits of pro-Beijing LegCo presidents.

They also announced their demands for the government to withdraw the extradition bill, retract its characterisation of protests on June 12 as a “riot”, drop all charges against protesters, investigate alleged police brutality, and implement universal suffrage. They also called for Hong Kong’s functional constituencies – votes from corporate and special interest groups – to be scrapped.

Photo: Todd R. Darling.

In a statement, a European Union spokesperson called for restraint, dialogue and the avoidance of escalation.

“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,” it read.

Photo: Todd R. Darling.

Monday’s events followed weeks of protests against the extradition bill, which would allow the chief executive to approve fugitive transfer requests with little judicial oversight to jurisdictions where there are no such agreements – most notably, mainland China. The bill was suspended on June 15, but not axed.

The Hong Kong Free Press #PressForFreedom 2019 Funding Drive seeks to raise HK$1.2m to support our non-profit newsroom and dedicated team of multi-media, multi-lingual reporters. HKFP is backed by readers, run by journalists and is immune to political and commercial pressure. This year’s critical fundraiser will provide us with the essential funds to continue our work into next year.

Elson Tong

Elson Tong is a graduate of international relations and former investigations consultant. He has also written for Stand News.