Hong Kong demonstrators smash government building amid protests on anniversary of return of Chinese rule
A group of protestors smashed a window and tore down parts of an exterior wall at Hong Kong‘s legislature building Monday amid another round of massive demonstrations in the city on the 22nd anniversary of the return to Chinese rule.
The crowd, comprised of mostly young protesters, could be seen on video using a cargo cart and large poles as battering rams against the glass panel. The demonstrators then tore down part of a glass and metal exterior wall of the government building, carrying away the long strips of metal framework.
Officers were able to eventually commandeer the cart, using riot shields and deploying pepper spray to push back the hundreds of demonstrators gathered around the building.
A handful of protesters made it inside the building, where police awaited them, according to the South China Morning Post. It was not clear how many were inside, and what happened to them.
Hong Kong demonstrators are opposed to a government attempt to change extradition laws that would allow suspects to be sent to China to face trial. The proposed legislation, on which debate has been suspended indefinitely, increased fears of eroding freedoms in the territory, which Britain returned to China on July 1, 1997.
Protesters want the bills formally withdrawn and Hong Kong’s embattled leader, Carrie Lam, to resign.
“I am afraid the march today will be the last protest for Hong Kong,” demonstrator Harley Chuk Kit-ying told the SCMP. “If I still chose not to come, then I would regret for a lifetime.”
The clashes at the government building forced Hong Kong’s leader to watch the annual commemoration of the handover from inside the city’s cavernous convention center instead of outside, according to Sky News.
In an address after a flag-raising ceremony marking the anniversary of the handover, Lam said the recent series of protests and two marches that attracted hundreds of thousands of participants have taught her she needs to listen better to youth and people in general.
“This has made me fully realize that I, as a politician, have to remind myself all the time of the need to grasp public sentiments accurately,” she told the gathering. Lam, who has come under withering criticism for trying to push the extradition legislation through, has pledged to be more responsive to public sentiment.
She insisted her government has good intentions, but said “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.”
Security guards pushed pro-democracy lawmaker Helena Wong out of the room as she shouted at Lam to resign and withdraw the “evil” legislation. She later told reporters she was voicing the grievances and opinions of the protesters, who could not get into the event.
The mass march on Monday was the third demonstration in three weeks after the bill fueled fears that China is eroding Hong Kong’s freedoms.
Jimmy Sham, a leader of the pro-democracy group that organized the march, told the crowd that Lam had not responded to their demands because she is not democratically elected. The leader of Hong Kong is chosen by a committee dominated by pro-China elites.
“We know that Carrie Lam can be so arrogant,” Sham said, rallying the crowd under a blazing sun before the start of the march at Victoria Park. “She is protected by our flawed system.”
Besides the controversial legislature, protestors are also demanding an independent inquiry into police actions during a June 12 protest, when officers used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse a demonstration that blocked the legislature on the day that debate on the bill had been scheduled to resume.
Police have claimed the use of force was justified, but since then have largely adopted softer tactics, even as protesters besieged police headquarters in recent days, pelting it with eggs and spray-painting slogans on its outer walls.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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