July 01, 2019

Hong Kong riot police fire tear gas at protesters after they storm legislature on anniversary of handover to China
Violence erupted in Hong Kong on Monday as protesters stormed the Legislative Council on the anniversary of the city’s return to Beijing, amid growing anger over a plan to allow extraditions to China.     Hundreds of masked demonstrators ran riot inside the building, forcing their way into the chamber, and smashing up doors, walls and paintings. Portraits of Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam and Chinese President Xi Jinping were torn down. On Monday night, Hong Kong police moved in to clear the hundreds of protesters who stormed the legislature, and fired tear gas at protesters outside parliament.   Hours earlier, they had streamed into the legislature after shattering windows with metal trolleys and poles and wrenching open metal shutters. The council issued a red alert, ordering them to leave. But the riot police who had previously been pushing them back appeared to have retreated. Earlier, police had raced toward protesters, beating some with batons and using pepper spray to thin the crowds. As the day wore on, more people turned out to participate in a planned rally to mark the date the former British colony was given back to China in 1997. The organisers said some 550,000 attended. Anti-government protesters stormed Hong Kong's parliament building  Credit: VIVEK PRAKASH/AFP/Getty Images Jeremy Hunt, the British Foreign Secretary, tweeted in support of the demonstrations, saying: "No violence is acceptable but HK people must preserve right to peaceful protest exercised within the law." Away from campaigning want to stress UK support for Hong Kong and its freedoms is UNWAVERING on this anniversary day. No violence is acceptable but HK people MUST preserve right to peaceful protest exercised within the law, as hundreds of thousands of brave people showed today.— Jeremy Hunt (@Jeremy_Hunt) July 1, 2019 “I wanted to add to the crowd numbers so that the government could hear the dissatisfaction of so many people,” said Gary, 35, a teacher, who declined to give his surname. Ming, 50, a business owner, told The Daily Telegraph: “I have marched all three times. I completely support the young people and their ideals and ambitions, which is for the good of Hong Kong.  "Seeing these young people like this, if I didn’t come out, I couldn’t have that on my conscience. I’m in my fifties, what can we do for these young people? One thing we can do is come out and march." Pro-democracy activists use the handover anniversary every year to march through Hong Kong calling for greater freedoms, though have failed to win any concessions from Beijing. Coming after three weeks of ongoing rallies, this year's rally took on even greater significance.  Hundreds of protesters poured into the building after hours of trying to break through windows Credit: Vivek Prakash/AFP Marches since June 9 have seen crowds swell to over one million with people demanding Hong Kong’s Beijing-backed leader, Ms Lam, withdraw a controversial extradition bill. Rights activists argue that, if passed, it would see suspects face unfair trials in mainland China where the courts are controlled by the ruling Communist Party and authorities use torture to extract forced confessions. The proposed bill, which has been delayed but not scrapped since protests intensified, adds to growing fears that China is gradually snuffing out the city’s freedoms, which were guaranteed for at least 50 years in a handover agreement between Britain and Beijing. China has become more willing to openly intervene in politics, barring individuals from running for the city’s legislature, forcing elected lawmakers to step down, and jailing young activists. As fears over human rights have grown, Germany has recently granted asylum to two Hong Kong dissidents. Riot police had pushed protesters back earlier in the day but later retreated Credit:  Anthony Kwan/ Getty Images  “The government is doing so much to threaten our way of life,” said Jessica Yeung, 50, a university professor who left a family holiday in York early to come home and join the protests. “We have to stand and safeguard our values.” Mrs Ho, a manual worker in her fifties, said: “I’ve come out to all the marches. I am not just supporting the students, I am supporting our Hong Kong spirit. They said it was one country two systems, but it’s not like that anymore. As for the glass breaking, we don’t know who they are.” The latest rallies in Hong Kong represent the biggest popular challenge to Chinese president Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012. The extradition issue has re-united Hong Kong’s previously fractured anti-Beijing resistance movement which had been riven with in-fighting and squabbles between different camps. Police officers use baton to disperse anti-extradition protesters during a clash outside the Legislative Council Complex  Credit: Getty “It’s a matter of a raw nerve having been touched for both the political groups and parties, as well as for the general public, so people came out,” said Steve Tsang, director of the University of London’s SOAS China Institute. “It didn’t matter who was asking them,” he said. “They voluntarily and proactively went out to show how much they care about the consequences of allowing those laws to be passed.” Protest organisers hope “to transform our power from the streets into the political system,” Bonnie Leung, vice-convenor of the Civil Human Rights Front, told The Telegraph, looking ahead to elections for the city’s legislature next year. It’s an opportunity for the resistance camp to win more seats and whittle down the current pro-Beijing majority, she said. As it stands, 43 of 70 seats are currently held by Beijing supporters in Hong Kong’s Legislative Council. “Then the government can no longer ignore our voices as they are doing now,” said Ms Leung. Hong Kongers have also criticised the UK, urging London to do more to pressure China to uphold its end of the handover agreement, the Sino-British Joint Declaration.  Anti-extradition protesters push barricades toward police on a street during a stand-off outside the Legislative Council Complex Credit: Getty “The British suck,” said Alex, a designer, 25, who declined to give his real name. “They abandoned us and only paid us lip service.” Protesters have been increasingly wary of their identities being revealed over fears of future backlash. Many have used umbrellas or donned face masks as a way to obscure their faces, as well as to defend against tear gas. On Sunday, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt urged the Hong Kong authorities to respect the “rights and freedoms” ahead of anniversary date, reiterating the UK’s support for the declaration. “It is a legally binding treaty and remains as valid today as it did when it was signed and ratified over thirty years ago,” he said. “It is imperative that Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, and the rights and freedoms of the Hong Kong people, are fully respected in line with the joint declaration and the Hong Kong basic law.” Two years ago, China said the joint declaration was a historical document that no longer had any practical significance. Beijing reiterated its stance on Monday, calling on the UK to stop “gesticulating” and “interfering” in its former colony and that Britain’s rights and obligations under the joint declaration had ended.  Police officers pepper spray during a clash with anti-extradition protesters Credit: Getty “Britain has no so-called responsibility for Hong Kong,” said Geng Shuang, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry. “Hong Kong matters are purely an internal affair for China. No foreign country has a right to interfere.” “We urge Britain to know its place and stop interfering in any form in Hong Kong matters and do more for its prosperity and stability rather than the opposite,” he added. Aside from Mr Geng’s comments there was no mention of the protests in Hong Kong on Monday in China, where censors tightly control news and information. State media instead carried remarks from Mr Xi extolling the virtues of the Communist Party on the 98th anniversary of its founding – coincidentally the same day as the handover anniversary. Protesters have indicated no plans of backing down – unlike past demonstrations, the latest wave have coalesced through a groundswell from many groups – political parties, labour unions, business groups, schools – rather than one main convenor. “This is a pretty organic movement; there is not one single organizer like in 2014, where everyone was looking to the student leaders,” Dennis Kwok, a politician who opposes the extradition bill, told the Telegraph. “There are no leaders in this one.” Additional reporting by Yiyin Zhong



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