Hong Kong: Police and protesters clash on handover anniversary

Media captionChampagne toasts and protests on HK handover anniversary

Protesters in Hong Kong have damaged and breached part of the government’s Legislative Council (LegCo) building.

Thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators have taken to the streets on the anniversary of the city’s handover from UK to Chinese rule.

In earlier clashes, police used pepper spray and batons to contain crowds.

This is the latest in a series of protests against a controversial bill that would allow extraditions to mainland China.

The government has agreed to suspend it indefinitely, but rallies continue amid calls for Chief Executive Carrie Lam to resign.

Hong Kong, a former British colony, has been part of China since 1997 under a “one country, two systems” deal that guarantees it a level of autonomy. Pro-democracy events are held every year to mark the handover.

The LegCo building was put on red alert for the first ever time on Monday – meaning people should evacuate the building and area.

What happened on Monday?

In the morning, a flag-raising ceremony to mark the handover took place inside the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, amid a heavy police presence.

Demonstrators blocked several roads nearby early using items like metal and plastic barriers.

Police officers equipped with shields, batons and pepper spray clashed with hundreds of protesters about 30 minutes before the ceremony.

Police and protestersImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionBoth police and demonstrators have reportedly been injured.

At least one woman was seen bleeding from a head wound after the clashes, AFP news agency says.

A police statement condemned “illegal acts” by protesters who, it said, had taken iron poles and guard rails from nearby building sites.

Thirteen police officers were taken to hospital after protesters threw an “unknown liquid” at them, the force later said. Some are said to have suffered breathing difficulties as a result.

Thousands joined a mostly peaceful pro-democracy march on Monday afternoon.

At about lunchtime, a breakaway group of protesters moved to LegCo where the government meets. The small group began ramming the glass doors with a metal trolley, succeeding in smashing in the door, before largely dispersing.

Police standing inside the government headquarters look at protestersImage copyrightAFP
Image captionRiot police were posted inside the Legislative Council building
Protesters try to break into the Legislative Council building during the annual 01 July pro-democracy march in Hong KongImage copyrightEPA
Image captionMany protesters were equipped with hard helmets and masks

On Monday evening, some then returned to LegCo and began pulling off external fencing and appeared to start entering part of the building.

The South China Morning Post reports that protesters were trying, and failing to open a heavy-duty internal gate inside – where police were standing ready to respond.

One man, identifying himself as G, told the BBC at the scene that protesters were expecting violence.

“The movement is now beyond the bill. It’s about the autonomy of Hong Kong,” he said.

“I do worry about the potential public backlash. Everything we do has a risk and this is one of the risks that people here are willing to take.”

The government condemned the latest violence, saying police would “take appropriate enforcement action to protect public order and safety”.

Map showing where ceremony was compared to LegCo building

Speaking at the earlier flag ceremony, Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam had pledged to spend more time listening to the public so that the government’s future work would be “more responsive” to its “aspirations, sentiments and opinions”.

It was Ms Lam’s first public appearance since 18 June, when she issued an apology for her handling of the extradition law.

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