An estimated 550,000 people gathered in the streets of Hong Kong Monday to celebrate the 22nd anniversary of the former British colony’s return to China.
A smaller group broke from the crowd and swarmed the Legislative Council building, using iron sheets and bits of scaffolding to break through the facility’s glass doors.
Once inside, protestors sprayed messages on the walls and called for the resignation of Chief Executive Carrie Lam.
The violence follows weeks of protests over a proposed extradition bill that would allow Hong Kong to extradite criminal suspects to mainland China.
Critics view the bill as a threat to Hong Kong’s independent judiciary system and worry that Beijing will use it to prosecute political dissidents in Hong Kong. Over the past month, more than 1 million people have taken to the streets to express their anger over the proposed legislation.
“The kind of deafness that I see in the government this time around despite these protests is really worrying,” said one protestor. “The complete disregard for the will of the people is what alarms me.”
Lam suspended all work on the extradition bill in mid-June, but stopped short of protestors’ demands to abandon it completely. The opposition is also calling for an investigation into police use of tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse an earlier protest.
Lam condemned the violence and described Monday’s events as two separate scenes: “One was a peaceful and rational parade…the other one was a heartbreaking, shocking, and law-breaking scene.”
As several Chinese outside the scope of Beijing’s censorship have pointed out, the protests in Hong Kong could result in Chinese Communist interference. Then things will get really ugly.
Hong Kong could lose its cherished independence (a seizure that would rattle economic markets) and find itself under complete Chinese rule. Hong Kong may see itself as a tiny dot of freedom trapped on the edge of a Communist dictatorship, but the truth is, the city owes its success to its role as a gateway for the British into China. Remember, without China, Hong Kong would be nothing more than an insignificant fishing village.