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Monday, July 1, 2019

Hong Kong protesters storming the Legislative Council on the anniversary of the delivery to China

Hong Kong protesters storming the Legislative Council on the anniversary of the delivery to China

Protesters charged the Hong Kong Legislative Council building on Monday, breaking glass doors and tearing down a metal wall that forms part of its facade. Monday's action, fueled by outrage over Beijing's attempt to establish a new extradition law, coincides with the 22nd anniversary of Hong Kong's surrender of British control to Chinese control.

"Tonight, the streets are full of anger" in both the Hong Kong government and the central leadership in Beijing, reports NPR's Julie McCarthy.

Thousands of protesters took to the streets in search of the latest in a series of huge protests, almost all dressed in black. Many marched peacefully or gathered in public parks. Many protesters wore yellow helmets and facial masks, protections against possible reprisals.

Some of the protesters attacked the building in the main government complex in Hong Kong, broke down barriers and tried to break through glass doors, which broke and splintered, but remained largely intact. Protesters began attacking the dozens of tall, thin metal bars that form a fence on the building's outer wall.

Riot police were in the building, holding guns and promising to arrest anyone who entered, reports the South China Morning Post. They deployed pepper spray, according to witnesses.

The attack on the building caused the leadership of the Legislative Council to issue a warning on the network and ordered any member of the government complex to withdraw immediately. Even before the protesters arrived, the complex was practically empty, as Hong Kong observed a holiday to commemorate the anniversary of the surrender.

The demonstrations effectively stifled a celebration that marked the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997. The event focused on a flag-raising ceremony, but civic upheaval forced officials to take the rare step of moving most of the celebration inside, where VIP leaders and VIPs saw how the flag was raised on television, according to the Morning Post.

In a previous confrontation, police had redirected the protesters who tried to march to the venue, according to The Associated Press.

Weeks of mass protests have already forced Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam to apologize and suspend the extradition bill, which would allow Hong Kong people accused of certain crimes to be tried in mainland courts. But activists say that is not enough. Lacking faith in Lam, backed by Beijing, they renewed calls for direct democracy in Hong Kong.

When Lam spoke on Monday, he repeated his admission that he had not handled the legislation well. He devoted most of his speech to discussing ways in which he would try to improve and said his government wants to restore public confidence.

"After this incident, I will learn the lesson and make sure that the future work of the Government is closer and more receptive to the aspirations, feelings, and opinions of the community," said Lam. "The first step and the most basic is to change the government's style of government to make it more open and comfortable."

The controversy over extradition has also fueled concern among Hong Kong residents that their civil liberties are related to the same conditions that exist in mainland China.

"China has no freedom, and even Hong Kong now has no freedom," said a supporter of the 72-year-old protest called Ms. Luo to McCarthy of NPR. "They have extended their arms to Hong Kong."

Another protester spoke with Adrian Ma from the WBUR member station. Megan Lee, 17, said she had not cared politically, through the dispute over the extradition bill.

"There is more anger building up inside me around these problems," Lee said. "And if I have the opportunity to express it, I feel it's an opportunity to take that."

Ma reports that the young protester "says she wants to talk because she is not sure she has the right to speak in the future."

At nightfall, thousands of demonstrators continued marching in Hong Kong, holding their cell phones in the air and using the phone's screenshot to light the streets.