Hundreds of demonstrators stormed into Hong Kong’s legislature after smashing their way in as the crisis that has gripped the semi-autonomous Chinese territory for weeks rapidly intensified.
After the protesters spent hours inside the complex, destroying furniture and spray-painting graffiti, hundreds of riot police surrounded the building and fired tear gas at demonstrators outside.
Protests have raged in Hong Kong against a controversial extradition bill which would allow suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial. On June 9, more than a million people marched against the bill, which they fear will allow China to encroach on rights in the territory.
Police in Hong Kong said they had arrested 12 people in connection with incidents on July 1, although it was unclear if those arrested were among the protesters who smashed their way into the city’s legislature and ransacked the building.
Eleven men and one woman were taken into custody over a “violent incident,” the police said.
The police said they had also arrested six people linked to incidents the day before and eight others suspected of being involved in the illegal disclosure online of police officers’ private information.
CHINA’S UTTERANCE ON THIS INCIDENT
China has described the violent actions of some Hong Kong protesters as an “undisguised challenge” to the ‘one country, two systems’ formula under which the city is governed, state television reported on July 2.
A representative from China’s Hong Kong affairs office condemned the violence, and said the government in Beijing would support the Hong Kong authorities in holding those responsible to account, the report said.
HONG KONG’S VETERAN DEMOCRATIC POLITICIAN SAYS PROTEST REFLECT FRUSTRATIONS
Martin Lee, the founding chairman of Hong Kong’s Democratic Party, said that while he could not defend the protesters’ violent actions on July 1st night, he could understand their frustrations.
“I don’t like these ugly scenes; nobody likes them and I will not defend them,” he told Al Jazeera. “But I want people to know what brought about such acts of violence.”
The veteran politician, who helped draft the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, said he had spent 35 years trusting the Chinese government would deliver on democratic commitments to the people of Hong Kong.
The Basic Law was designed to ensure a high degree of autonomy for the territory for 50 years, and included that China would give Hong Kong people the vote and would not interfere in its affairs.
“These two important conditions, if fulfilled, would enable Hong Kong people to be masters of their own house and none of this would have happened,” Lee said.
“It was written into the Basic Law that we would have universal suffrage, 10 years after the handover. Now it’s 22 years and it’s nowhere in sight so you can see the frustration. I also feel frustrated, but I’m an 81-year-old man and I would not do such acts to get democracy but how can you blame these young people?”
YOUNG PEOPLE HAVE LOST FAITH IN POLICE AND GOVERNMENT: HONG KONG OFFICIAL
A Hong Kong legislator has said young people there have lost faith in the police and their government following violent clashes with protesters.
Labor Party Vice Chairman Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung told The Associated Press that the relationship between citizens and the authorities “has been completely deteriorated”.
Cheung said that “We’ve seen [the police] use extreme forces which are not proportional to the demonstration”.
He added that the widespread use of face masks by protesters and their unwillingness to be identified was understandable given the authorities’ growing tendency to file heavy charges for seemingly mild public disorder offences.
EU SAYS HONG KONG RIGHTS ‘NEED TO BE RESPECTED’
The European Union said on Wednesday the Hong Kong government must respect citizens rights while all sides should exercise restraint after violent protests against plans to allow extradition to mainland China.
“Over the past days, the people of Hong Kong have exercised their fundamental right to assemble and express themselves freely and peacefully. These rights need to be respected,” a statement issued by the EU’s external affairs arm said.
“Restraint should be exercised by all sides; violence and escalatory responses must be avoided,” it added.
TRUMP HOPES PROTESTERS ‘WORK IT OUT WITH CHINA’
US President Donald Trump has said he understands Hong Kong protesters but hopes they can “work it out” with Beijing.
“I hope they’re going to be able to work it out with China,” Trump told reporters at the White House.”I understand the reason for the demonstration,” he said. “I hope it all works out for China and for Hong Kong.”
Trump’s cautious response to what he said were “massive” demonstrations came as Washington and Beijing try to pick up the pieces of their collapsed talks on resolving a trade war.
“We’re doing very well with respect to China,” Trump said, referring to huge trade tariffs imposed on Chinese imports. “I have a feeling that we’re going to make a deal with China,” he said.
PROTESTERS VOW TO KEEP FIGHTING
Following a day of sit-ins, tear gas and clashes with police, Hong Kong students and civil rights activists vowed to keep protesting against the proposed extradition bill.
“We’ll stay until the government drops this law and [Chinese President] Xi Jinping gives up on trying to turn Hong Kong into just another city in China like Beijing and Shanghai,” college student Louis Wong Wong said.
Traffic in one of the busiest parts of the city remained blocked.
“We want the government to just set the legislation aside and not bring it back,” said a protester who gave only his first name, Marco, because he feared possible repercussions from authorities.
Another protester, who gave her name only as King, said: “We have to stand up for our rights or they will be taken away”.
OPEN DEBATE ON CONTROVERCIAL BILL ON 11TH JUNE
Protesters in Hong Kong are gathering outside the semiautonomous Chinese territory’s legislature amid plans for further demonstrations and strike actions on Wednesday morning.
The administration of Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam plans to open debate on the legal amendments.
The head of Hong Kong’s legislature has announced the schedule for debate on contentious changes to the territory’s extradition laws, setting a vote by June 20.
Legislature President Andrew Leung said Tuesday that he had accepted 153 out of 238 proposed amendments to the bills. He said there would be 66 hours for debate.
Hundreds of thousands of people protested against the legislation in the largest demonstration in Hong Kong in more than a decade.
The turnout reflected growing apprehension about relations with the Communist Party-ruled mainland.