Protesters in Hong Kong forced their way into the city’s main legislative building on Monday -- the 22nd anniversary of the former British colony’s return to China.
Hundreds of protesters had surrounded the government complex at midday Monday. By night, they had broken glass and metal barriers and entered.
The protesters tore down pictures of legislative leaders and painted pro-democracy messages on the walls. They also reportedly destroyed things inside and raised the former British colonial flag.
Police with riot protection equipment fired tear gas to clear surrounding streets. They then moved into legislative rooms but protesters had already fled. A spokesman had earlier broadcast a warning that “appropriate force” would be used in the clearance operation.
The protesters were in the legislative building for about three hours.
The sharp change in protesters’ methods comes after weeks of demonstrations and growing upset with Hong Kong’s leader for not answering the protesters’ demands.
Huge demonstrations began last month over a proposed bill that would permit people accused of crimes to be sent to mainland China for trial. Protests continued even after Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam apologized and said she would suspend the bill.
Lam has yet to withdraw the extradition bill permanently, or meet protesters’ other demands -- including an investigation into police treatment of protesters during a violent demonstration on June 12. They also have also called for Lam, who was not directly elected, to resign.
Protester Leo Wong said many Hong Kong locals do not trust the government. It has promised to cancel unpopular proposals in the past and then not done so.
Wong told VOA, “I understand that people may be saying suspension is the same as withdrawal… but why the protesters are still angry about this is people were tricked by the government for so many times over so many years,” Wong told VOA.
Wong and many other protesters also said they feared Hong Kong was losing its right to self-govern. Under the agreement between Britain and China, Hong Kong is guaranteed self-government until 2047. Citizens are currently protected by the Basic Law, a set of civil and political rights.
Britain returned Hong Kong to China on July 1, 1997. The territory has since been governed under a “one country, two systems” rule. Under this rule, Hong Kong is guaranteed the right to its own social, legal and political systems. However, some observers say China’s ruling Communist Party has ignored that agreement by forcing passage of unpopular laws.
Many protesters say the government’s failure to answer popular demands is a sign that the city’s political system is broken.
Hong Kong protester James Leung said, “Although the bill is the issue I think behind [it] is our fight for democracy of our Hong Kong people.”
I'm Ashley Thompson.
Ashley Thompson adapted this article based on reports by VOA's Erin Hale and the Associated Press. Caty Weaver was the editor.
Words in This Story
appropriate - adj. right or suited for some purpose or situation
extradition - n. the act of sending (a person who has been accused of a crime) to another state or country for trial