Hong Kong protesters occupy parliament building, spray graffiti (PHOTOS)
The demonstrators used a metal trolley to break into the Hong Kong Legislative Council building after a standoff with riot police on Monday afternoon, smashing windows and eventually entering the building.
Police tried unsuccessfully to push back the demonstrators, but were forced to either retreat somewhere inside the council building or abandon it altogether as protesters streamed in.
Inside the chamber, demonstrators tore down portraits of the city’s leader, Carrie Lam, as well as Chinese President Xi Jinping. The dissidents also scrawled political slogans across everything in sight, walls and floors included.
Some protesters tied a British colonial flag to a podium in the parliament.
China has been tight-lipped about the growing dissent, while warning other nations against meddling in its internal affairs. Speaking ahead of the G20 summit last week, China’s assistant foreign minister Zhang Jun ruled out that the issue could be raised at a meeting between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the summit.
Still, Trump said on Monday that he had “briefly” spoken about the unrest with his Chinese counterpart while taking a jab at Beijing, his opponent in an ongoing trade war. He appeared to endorse the protests: “Well, they're looking for democracy and I think most people want democracy. That's what it's all about. It's all about democracy. There's nothing better,” he said, adding that "unfortunately, some governments don't want democracy."
Hong Kong officials have issued a ‘Red Alert,’ ordering all personnel to evacuate the structure, and said the protesters were engaged in “extreme violence.” Battalions of riot police returned shortly afterwards to baton-charge protesters outside the parliament, firing tear gas to disperse the crowds.The last of the protesters were evicted from the building some time after midnight.
UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt voiced support for the protesters’ right to “peaceful protest exercised within the law,” but said violence is not acceptable.
The European Union also called for restraint on behalf of the protesters.
Prior to the clashes, demonstrators gathered early Monday morning – on the 22nd anniversary of Hong Kong’s return from British to Chinese rule – to protest a hotly contested extradition bill that recently passed through parliament. The law would improve extradition channels between Hong Kong and mainland China, but many in the city argue it gives too much authority to Beijing.
Though the city administration had already suspended the bill indefinitely, the protesters now demand the resignation of Carrie Lam, the city’s chief executive.
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