Protesters in Hong Kong have attempted to storm the government headquarters today, on what is the 22nd anniversary of the handover of the former British colony to China. A large group of dissidents gathered around the glass doors of the Legislative Council building this afternoon and beat them with a metal pole, shattering the glass, while inside riot police braced against the windows with their shields, The Guardian reports. Police inside the building have held up a red flag, meaning "stop charging or we use force", according to CNN.
It is not clear why the protesters are attacking at the building. As today is a public holiday, no meetings are taking place there.
The incident follows an increasingly tense morning that involved multiple violent clashes with police. Huge numbers of protesters rallied in the streets to mark the territory’s handover anniversary, seizing control of a number of main thoroughfares in the city. Multiple people reported being injured by police with batons and pepper spray, and several protesters were taken away in ambulances. Hong Kong police meanwhile claim that 13 of their officers were injured in the fracases and sent to hospital.
July 1st is typically met with both pro- and anti-China demonstrations, but recent tensions surrounding the government’s controversial extradition bill—which would allow Beijing to extradite people from Hong Kong to the mainland—and the ensuing political crisis appears to have emboldened the pro-democracy protesters.
Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s embattled leader, attended a ceremony to mark the date and gave a speech in which she referred directly to the recent anti-extradition protests. Lam said that they had made her realise “the need to grasp public sentiments accurately”.
“I am also fully aware that while we have good intentions, we still need to be open and accommodating,” she added.
This comes just weeks after hundreds of thousands of Hong Kongers took to the streets to demand her resignation. Those demonstrations and rallies have been described as some of the largest in the territory’s history.
Authorities had previously asked the organisers of the July 1 pro-democracy march to either postpone their rally or change the route, according to Senior Superintendent Kong Wing-Cheung. The protest organisers refused, he said.
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