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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Hong Kong Protests Escalate, Moving Inside The Legislative Council Building. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired July 1, 2019 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, I'm Anna Coren from Hong Kong, where things have sadly got very much out of hand here at the Legislative Council building.
As we have been following throughout the day, protesters, tens of thousands of protesters surrounded this government building. They broke through, hours ago, after ramming glass windows and doors, the broke through and then they have recently stormed the government building.
They have made their way -- dozens of them have made their way throughout the building, into the chamber where they have graffitied on the walls, they have graffitied obscenities, they have graffitied slogans, down with the government, down with the city's Chief Executive Carrie Lam. These are extraordinary scenes that we have been witnessing here in Hong Kong in the past hour.
The protesters here, when they began this movement some three weeks ago, with those incredible demonstrations that when we saw one million people take to the streets, there was so much public good will, so much support, not just here in Hong Kong, but also around the world.
Tonight we are witnessing some scenes which can only be described as anarchy. Our Nic Robertson is there with protesters. Nic, talk us through what you are seeing.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, right now I'm at the doors here. You've got people coming past me on one side coming out, people coming out of the other side. But, there is a continual procession of people, protesters going into the building.
One carrying a riot shield here, many of them with the hardhats that we've seen all day, and their aim when they get in has been very unclear. The result of them getting access to the building has been the damage that we're seeing, the graffiti on the walls, the raising of the flag as we understand, in the executive chamber there in the building. The alarms are going off around me here.
People are swarming in and out quite freely and I think just the -- pause there -- I don't need a helmet, thank you very much. People here keep offering me helmets, they want to make sure that I'm safe, but I think to try to put this on context for our viewers as we've been doing through the day here, this is the main government building in Hong Kong.
This would be like any building in any capital. Let's say, the White House, let's say, the House of Parliament in London. If protesters got into the White House and they were making their way to the west wing or they got into the Houses of Parliament in London and they were making their way the sacrosanct chamber of the House of Parliament there, where -- where -- where laws are passed. This is what's happened here.
The protesters by dent of force throughout the day have used poles, crates of rocks, barricades that they've ripped apart and ripped up from the streets, they've used them as battering rams to break though the glass, break through the doors, break their way into the building.
And finally, after six, seven, eight hours of that, managed now to free the way for any of the protesters standing around me here to come and go inside the building, to see where government is conducted.
To be at the place that they want to repeal that legislation, to be at the heart of the government that they fear, will tip them under Chinese control, would take away from them the democracy and freedoms that they've had, that their parents had, that their grandparents had.
This is what they feel is at stake, but it has come to this moment right now where they've achieved this aim of getting into the building, but at what cost, at what of their movement and at what cost the principles of their aim here. They wanted to say something. They felt this was their moment to say something. Say it now, act now or loose the opportunity. They've grasped that opportunity, but we yet to see what it's going to add up to Anna.
COREN: Yes, and Nic Robertson, this is something that really has not been seen before, certainly not in a developed country, developed city in an international, financial hub that is Hong Kong. A place where there is some 1,300 global corporations that have their regional headquarters stationed here in Hong Kong, and yet you see these protesters just storming this government building. Let's go to our Roger Clark, because I think the question is, Roger, who is our Hong Kong Bureau Chief, where are the police?
We saw hundreds of them earlier in the day. We were, obviously, having that very tense stand-off with protesters as they were ramming those reinforced glass doors. Where are they now, as these dozens of protesters, if not more, by the sounds of Nic Robertson was saying, there are hundreds of protesters how have now entered LegCo, where are the police?
ROGER CLARK, CNN HONG KONG BUREAU CHIEF: Well, what I can tell you, Anna, is where they're not. They're not in the main council chamber of the legislative council. We or I have now sat at a seat where a member of legislative council sits. There are many, many legislative council members who sit in this
chamber, they've got their voting panels that turn to them, their little monitors, their microphones, their cups and I'm surrounded of hundreds of hundreds of protesters who have just taken over this legislative council chamber. This is the heart of the LegCo building. This is where all the laws in Hong Kong are passed and it's been taken over by the protesters.
I can tell you that the front, at the main podium where legislative council members go speak to the main podium, the Union Jack and the Hong Kong flag were flying a few moments ago. They were draped over the lectern.
It's the old Hong Kong flag, with the Hong Kong emblem and the Union Jack, that one's there, they -- the protesters have defaced the Hong Kong fable (ph), which is high above the council chamber here. And all around this chamber, the halls have been defaced and vandalized, no sign of the police whatsoever.
They -- they protesters, I mean, they started off in the lobby and now they're in the very heart of this building, the main council chamber. For the government, it really doesn't get any worse than this. For the police, not being able to guarantee the security of this part of the building is something that they're -- will be serious questions asked of.
As I said, this council chamber, where I'm sitting now, where members of the legislative council sit to pass laws, well, its protesters, journalists who are all setting here now (inaudible) from the lectern at the front. It was quite striking to see the old Hong Kong flag with the Union Jack flag draped over the main lectern, and the vandalism around here is -- it's quite shocking.
And to be honest with you, I think a lot of people in Hong Kong who are quietly concerned about Chinese interference in the Hong Kong way of life, that the Hong Kong way of life being eroded, I think a lot of people in Hong Kong are going to be deeply, deeply concerned about this. I'm sure a lot of people in Hong Kong will say that this has now just gone way too far.
Don't you know, tensions are running very, very high, but this in truth is a very, very, very sad and bad situation. And whether this backfires (inaudible) Nic Robertson was alluding to, we'll have to wait and see.
COREN: Yes, Roger, I think many people are just shaking their heads as to the extent that these protesters have gone. Considering there was so much good will, so much public support, not just here in Hong Kong, but globally.
Let's not go to our Matt Rivers, who is inside LegCo with the protesters. Matt, talk us through what you are witnessing.
MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean it's -- it's to echo what Roger said, these are extraordinary scenes and bear with us because our live TV signal here, I understand, is a bit choppy. But I'm standing in the heart of where Hong Kong does it's legislative business. I mean this would be like standing the U.S. House of Representatives main chamber.
I mean, it's remarkable that we're standing here. I want to move slowly here, because that kind of blocks the signal. It's OK, go ahead, go ahead. So, that's the main seat there and you can see over here, look at all the protesters that have filled this chamber. I mean, this is where legislators sit, this is where they conduct business.
Now, obviously, there's a lot of members in the press here as well, but this is filled with protesters that have somehow managed to make their way into the main legislative chamber where the Hong Kong government does their business. It was hours and hours they spent trying to break through the outer doors, and for a while there we were all wondering, well, when are the police going to come in, step in. And they didn't.
And then they got through the outer door, and then it was the metal barriers, the kind of gates that you see come down in front of storefronts, and then it was that layer and they worked on it for hours and eventually they got through and we were kind of shocked, the fact that there were no riot police waiting for the protesters on the other side.
And then it was in the basement area where we were, where Nic Robertson was doing his live shots from, just inside that are protesters made it in there.
RIVERS: And then it was up to the second floor into what is truly and impressive room and something where you just have this sense of we're not normally supposed to be here.
And right here there's actually a sign. If we move very slowly, there's a sign right there that says, "Access to the president seat is restricted to the president and his deputies only," and I can tell you that the person that is standing right up there is not the president or her or his deputies. And that sign right there reads, "There are no rebels, only tyranny. There are no rioters, only tyranny," and that's the sign that they carried in here.
So where this goes from here is a major question. How long do the police allow these people to stay in here? What does it look like when they try and clear these people out? I don't know the answer to that question. Getting them from cutting into the building, that was probably significantly easier than clearing them out.
And so, how this ends is really anyone's guess. I just asked a very tired looking protesters who was sitting in a legislator's seat, "how long are you going to stay here for," and he said, "I don't know. And hour, two hours, until they kick us out." So and I don't - this is truly remarkable that we're standing in here doing a live shot. This is not something I thought we'd be doing, and yet, you know, here we are. These protests that we're peaceful all day long have really taken a turn into something that I don't think really anyone was expecting.
COREN: You know, Matt, this movement has been leaderless. That is something that has been very unique to the protests that we have seen over the last three weeks. There hasn't been one singular person who has been in command, one organization that has been command. This is something that has happened, if you like, organically, something that has happened through social media via the app Telegram. That is how these protesters have communicated.
And we have witnessed here in Tehmam Park (ph) just how the protesters have tried to get supplies. It's almost like a chain - a human chain that is going on to support those inside Legco. It is just breathtaking, but Matt, I have to say when we began our coverage here at 2 o'clock this afternoon, that was when protesters had decided that they were going to attempt to break into Legco. They wanted to storm into Legco. It took them many hours to do that.
We saw the police. It has now just gone 10 p.m., quarter past 10 in the evening here in Hong Kong, and still no sign of the police. What are they playing at?
RIVERS: So there's a big rush here. Guys, I don't know exactly what's going on. Something's going (inaudible) guys, but (inaudible) quick rush for the exit, so I don't know (inaudible). This is just something (inaudible)
COREN: OK, we seem to be losing our Matt Rivers who is inside the legislative council building. I can tell you from here in Tehmam Park (ph) that there are - there are hundreds if not thousands of people here, and they just made a dash.
Look, I don't have return signal because there is no Internet whatsoever, so I cam currently flying blind, but I would presume that the police may be acting. They may be moving in. OK, I think we've reestablished com's with our Matt Rivers. Matt, talk to us. OK, we're now going to go to our Roger Clark, our Hong Kong Bureau Chief. Roger, what's happening?
CLARK: Yes, the (inaudible) so I don't know what that was all about, but it seems to have calmed down now. I'm just going to hand you over to Matt Rivers. I'm going to hand you over to Matt Rivers.
RIVERS: Thank you, Roger. Yes, so we're here inside the legislative council building. So what happened is - so we're going to stand by - and what happened is - so we're going to stand by. Hopefully we're going to go over to out camera here. Hold on one second. Are you with me, Catherine?
OK, great. So here's - apologies for that. Our live signal is very - it's very choppy here, so there's a lot of - there's a lot of breakup in our live segment, but basically what's going on here is there was a bit of a rush towards the exit which is why we had to move so quickly before. [10:15:00]
We're not sure why there was a rush to the exit. We're not sure if somebody ran and then everybody else followed. It just goes to show you, though, that things are tense here. Things are very, very tense because there's a sense that people don't know how this is going to end.
You know, the fact that everyone ran to the exit and then calmed down, but it was a rush, I think it shows you that people in here are tense because they know for the large part that they've kind of crossed the line in a lot of ways, and I think they know that the response of the Hong Kong government, you know, it could be severe. We don't know exactly how this is going to end, and that's why things are so tense here right now is because we don't know how this is going to end. We're in the main legislative, you know, chamber of the Hong Kong government.
(inaudible) Senate chamber in the U.S. I mean, this is unprecedented. There's vandalism that's been going on. There's signs that have been put up. People are sitting is legislator desks. They're walking on legislator desks and chairs. They've taken over most of this building. And so, the question is now what do these protesters decide to do? Do they decide to wait in here until the government decides that this is unacceptable and that the pictures that are being broadcasted to the world right now are incredibly embarrassing to the Hong Kong government, and do they wait here for the government response or do they leave willingly before that?
And we're not sure what they're going to do at this point, but whatever they decide to do, that could be the make or break point in terms of does this become violent or does this pretty remarkable scene end peacefully, Anna?
COREN: Well, Matt, I'm not quite sure how this is going to end peacefully unless these protesters decide to pack up and go home, and by all accounts, these protesters aren't going anywhere. They've made their wall all - all the way inside the legislative council building to the - to the very chambers where the legislative sits and works, does their daily work.
But Matt, I just don't understand why we haven't heard from the police. Even to come out and make some sort of statement, some sort of announcement, and why we haven't heard from the city's Chief Executive, Carrie Lam. From the protesters, Matt, that you have spoken to, I mean, what is the endgame here?
CLARK: This is Roger. Matt is on the point (ph) of the camera. This is Roger on the (inaudible) line.
COREN: OK. OK, we seem to be reestablishing communications with Matt Rivers. Matt, can you hear me? OK, until we reestablish communications with our Matt Rivers inside the legislative council building, let's now go to our Claudia Mo. So is a pro-democracy lawmaker who I know is extremely saddened by what you have been witnessing over the last few hours. CLAUDIA MO, HONG KONG PRO-DEMOCRACY LEGISLATOR: Yes, it's very unexpected, except you need to still understand that anger of the Hong Kong young people. They are particularly angry at this legislature because it's been serving just like some rubber stamping body all these years because the democrats are always outnumbered, and we're outnumbered not because we're not popular but because - well, we have more votes but -
COREN: For sure.
MO: - fewer seats.
COREN: But Claudia, it's one thing to be angry and we understand these protesters are angry. It is another thing to vandalize public property, to vandalize the government building, to vandalize the very chamber that you go to, that you work at. So it does - is this really required to get the government's attention to draw attention to this issue here in Hong Kong?
MO: No, you have to understand vandalism, nobody would endorse it of course, but then the pent up anger and frustration and resentment and hostility on the part of the Hong Kong young people just need to be understood. I hope Carrie Lam would just come out and talk to them.
COREN: Claudia, why haven't we heard from the police? This began at 2 o'clock -
MO: That's very curious, yes.
COREN: - this afternoon. It is now coming up to 10:30 in the evening. The fact that these protesters have been allowed to storm this government building and basically run a much, they are running a much, they are defacing public property, they are vandalizing on the walls, where are the police? Why aren't the police containing situation?
MO: It is getting slightly curious, but then the police apparently did issue a statement condemning the violence employed by the protesters.
But apparently they're not inside booting. I'm rather worried about that too, what's happening?
Is it they're setting a trap or something? But then Carrie Lam as the leader of this city, she really has every responsibility to come out and try to do something, talk to the student representatives at least.
But I was told - I was in touch with the chief executive office and I was told that the team's very busy at the moment and they have no time to have any emergency meeting with the Democrats of the legislature after what happened here.
COREN: Claudia, how does this play out? I mean how does this end? How do all those hundreds of people inside the Legislative Council building leave peacefully?
MO: I really hope that - well I think the police are obviously trying to tire them out, to wear you down, tire you out and you will be up for arrest. I hope they will just quickly retreat.
But then we do have this slogan, you must have heard, Carrie Lam won't withdraw that controversial bill, the protesters will not retreat or tether. So they're doing what they have promised basically.
And - but how is it going to play out?
COREN: But do you agree they didn't need to do this? The protesters did not need ot do this?
MO: Well of course not, no.
COREN: They have overstepped (inaudible).
MO: I had a chat, a brief one albeit how brief it was with some of the apparent leaders, and I was warning them a rioting charge could carry a maximum of 10 years in Hong Kong. It's not funny.
And their approach - their reply basically was we have nothing to lose. And this is Hong Kong, this is our future, we have every right to fight for it. The government pushed it, it's their fault.
COREN: Claudia, you mentioned the anger that these protesters feel, but they also feel a sense of desperation, desperation about what their future holds.
MO: Desperation's the right word, exactly, exactly. This is the 2019 in Hong Kong, but to most of them it feels almost like 2047 already because this government is just a puppet regime of Beijing ultimately.
They're not getting the - any of the promises that Beijing made to Hong Kong 22 years ago. And today, July the 1st, the 22nd anniversary, is the very tipping point. Our young people snapped and they snapped so - it's heartbreaking.
COREN: It is heartbreaking, it's heartbreaking as somebody who's lived in this city for more than 10 years to see what is happening here, because there was so much good will put out. There was so much good will, not just here in Hong Kong, you know, you had a quarter of the population of Hong Kong turn out to the streets, turn out peacefully and protest two Sundays ago.
There was - there was support right around the world for what these people - these young people are fighting for. And now we're witnessing these scenes, these awful scenes -
MO: But then the young are trying to tell you also that whether it's 1 million or 2 million, it doesn't matter to this public regime in Hong Kong. We will do something more. We'll escalate our protest and that's how it ends up (inaudible) how is it going to play out? I (inaudible). COREN: Claudia you talk about the public regime here in Hong Kong, at the end of the day then these people's beef, the Hong Kong protester's beef is with the Chinese government, with Xi Jingping, the Chinese leader.
And surely he and his government are not looking fondly, not looking kindly at what is happening here right now.
MO: And they should do something about Carrie Lam, she really is the starter of all this. You must have noticed Beijing has tried to draw a line, distance itself from Carrie Lam, saying that it's Carrie Lam who is - who made -
COREN: There is - there is pepper spray in the air, so it is getting caught in people's throats, and that is why we can see people distressing.
MO: If indeed it's Carrie Lam who started it all, let's believe what Beijing had to say over this, and all the more reason Carrie Lam must step down. She has completely lost any trust among Hong Kong people especially with the young.
COREN: Claudia Mo, thank you very much for speaking with us. So it is coming up to 10:30 here in Hong Kong, there are still hundreds of people who are inside that Legislative Council building, they are inside the chamber where they have graffiti-ed, they have defaced public property.
It is a scene that none of us have witnessed before, certainly not in the developed world, not in a city like Hong Kong which is a global financial center. It is a hub of business, and tomorrow we don't know whether these protesters are still going to be here.
We don't know if the police are finally going to move in and contain the situation as they should have done hours ago. The police have much to answer for as do the protesters inside Hong Kong's legislative building.
Stay with CNN, we are following this story extremely closely, we'll have much more coming up after the break.
COREN: Welcome back, I'm Anna Coren live from Hong Kong where we have been witnessing extraordinary scenes all day, particularly in the last few hours after thousands of protesters that had surrounded the Legislative Council building finally smashed through and have made their way into the chamber.
There are now hundreds of people inside the building behind me, that is where Hong Kong's government does business. This is where they pass the bills, this is where they would have debated the very controversial extradition bill that really sparked all of these protests. And we must also remember that today is the 22nd anniversary of the Hong Kong handover from Britain to mainland China. And the protesters inside, they have enjoyed the freedoms of that one country, two systems policy for the last 22 years.
Well they feel that their freedoms, what they have enjoyed is being eroded by the encroachment of mainland China. Our Nic Robertson, he is standing by outside the Legislative Council building. Nic bring us up to speed to what you have been witnessing.
ROBERTSON: It's been a free flow of people - protesters coming and going from the Legislative Council building.
They've been able to reach the main legislative chamber. They've sprayed graffiti on the wall, they are no rioters, only tyranny. They've replaced the colonial flag that flies there with one of their own.
There is no sense of what they're final aim is right now, but what we can see is a movement of barriers and barricades that have been inside the building now being moved outside.
But if they're going to fortify themselves somehow from and advance of the police, it doesn't seem quite clear what the lines are going to be or how they're going to construct it, that that's been the evolution of this protest through the day.
It began hours and hours and hours ago in the afternoon with protesters taking crates of rocks, taking metal bars, taking pieces of barricade that they could manhandle between a few people and smash into these thick, glass reinforced with plastic windows, breaking through those windows and then moving on without trying to get inside the building, moving on to other positions.
Meanwhile the police inside would spray pepper spray at them as they tried to breach the windows. But the police remain inside and they didn't go on the offensive against the protesters and the outcome after hours and hours or thousands of people battering away at this center of government legislation has been that the protesters have now reached that goal of getting into the building, which seemed to be ultimately their goal all day.
But what was the aim and what is going to be the cost of getting in, remembering they're riding a wave of popular support because of the way that the police brutally crushed their protests on the 12th of June.
Today the narrative is different, today the police have hung back. For what reason we don't know, at what cost to their - at what cost to the police we don't know, but the police have hung back and the narrative right now is that the protesters getting into the building and a building that would be sacred in any country, getting in and covering it in graffiti and damaging it in this way. So the night is still got a long way to play out, will the police move
in, how will they do it? How long will the protesters remain and what else will they try to do? But the reality for this moment right now this night, the night on the 22nd anniversary of when Britain handed Hong Kong back to mainland China, the reality this evening is the people have control of the government building here, not the authorities, and that is a very symbolic but also a very powerful message that they're sending.
COREN: Yes Nic, where we began our coverage at 2 o'clock this afternoon, you were standing outside the Legislative Council building as those protesters were ramming that metal cage trying to break down that glass door.
We were waiting for police then, it is now more than eight hours - eight and a half hours and police have not stepped in. It just does not make any sense. If they're trying to tire them out, well that's fine, but they are creating so much damage.
I mean what is your theory as to why police have taken a back seat? Why they have remained completely behind the scenes?
ROBERTSON: It is only a theory, Anna, and I can only offer a theory and I can't guarantee that it's - that it's correct. However, what we saw transpire on the 12th of June was the police at some point received an order that they had to respond to the protests in a very strong way.
They don't appear to have had such an order today. Where did that order come from last time, who made it and who is not making the order this evening? Where is Carrie Lam, the chief executive right now? What decisions is she making at the moment?
Is she making decisions? You would expect and anticipate in a situation like this that a government officials, a main security cabinet would get together and form a plan of action, that they would instruct the police and other service in what they wanted them to do.
So the police will follow instructions, so it appears this evening that the police are not receiving new instruction over and above what it appears they had earlier in the day to not be as heavy handed as they were three weeks ago, to not get into direct confrontation, to not fire those potentially lethal battering rams, these heavy plastic rams fired from weapons at the protesters.
To not use such excessive tear gas, to not use the water cannon, and that still seems to be the standing of the decision right now. And is that to - is that to send a message to the population of Hong Kong that the rioters - this is what happens if the rioters carry out their will. We need stronger controls. Is this a way for the legislature under Carrie Lam to try to execute and follow through on the legislation that she has had to delay on the extraditing of some criminals to mainland China for trial? Those are the questions that hang in the air, but as for the precise
reason it seems that the police do not have orders as far as we can tell at this time to take a more confrontational stance with these protesters.
COREN: Well Nic, we have just received a statement from the government and I want to read it out to all our viewers. It says today some protesters confronted police from morning until night. They charged police cordoned lines - all right, where is that. I'm sorry. I'm going to have to get that back. Basically they have called the protesters rioters. They are demanding that they stop immediately.
So by issuing this statement, the government issuing this statement, does this mean, Nic, that perhaps we will now see some action from the police?
ROBERTSON: The police are giving the protesters now an opportunity to step back and step down. I think in an environment like this you can perhaps because the police through this message appear at least to be appealing to the protester's better wills if you like. The police are giving an opportunity for them to step down.
Will the police offer a timeline, a deadline for the protesters to pull back or else? That isn't clear, but it does seem that the police are opening a window here that they may close. That they may say ultimately we gave you're an opportunity. We stood back when you protested. You've got what you wanted. You got in the building. You've done what you wanted in there. Now it's time to leave. But if you don't, then we're going to come down hard.
Our rationale that we'll be able to tell the people of Hong Kong and tell the world was we stood back. We gave the protesters time, but they didn't head. This is a government building, and the governed needs to take control. And therefore, we have been forced, if you like, into these actions, whatever those actions might be, and they would have to be firm actions at this stage to clear the crowd. Is that what they're setting the stage for? I think this potentially could be the case.
COREN: Nic, I just want to read the rest of that statement. We are also having problems with our phones, so my apologies, but the rest of the statement says this evening some radical protesters stormed the legislative council complex with extreme violence. These protesters seriously jeopardized the safety of police officers and members of the public. Such violent acts are unacceptable to society.
The Hong Kong government is asking people to stop violent acts immediately. Let's now go to our Matt Rivers. He's on the phone inside Legco in the chamber. Matt, what are protesters saying to you?
RIVERS: (inaudible) listened to one protester stand up on top of a legislator's desk and say, "you know, if we stand here, the legislators can't exactly come back into the chamber and debate the extradition bill because we're in the chamber where they would do that exact debate." And so, from what it sounds like, they want to occupy this space.
Now, we do understand that the Hong Kong Police have just issued a warning that they will clear the Legco area - the legislative council area that is - shortly, but that apparently has not deterred any of the people in this room.
Now, there is a large contingent of press in here, both local and foreign media, as well as a large contingent of protesters, and no one seems to be moving as of now. The press obviously following what the protesters are doing, and they seem to be relatively determined to stay in this space.
One person that I spoke to here said specifically, "why would we leave now when we worked so hard to get in here?" It's just remarkable the fact that I'm standing here, Anna, talking to you from a legislators desk in the middle of the main council chamber.
It's remarkable. And I don't think anyone who started the day thought perhaps other than the people who wanted to come in here from the very beginning, I don't think many people thought this is how the day was -- was going -- what it was going to look like at 10:45 at night. So, this is remarkable.
The big question now is, what happens next. When the police say they're going to clear the area, well, what does that mean? And this room has not a ton of exits that I'm in, and so, how do they get everybody out?
And if they demand that the protesters leave, do they? And if they don't leave, well, what happens then? And that's the question I don't know the answer to, but it is remarkable.
COREN: Well Matt, we have just got word from the police who have issued a warning saying due to the violent actions of protesters, the police will clear the scene around the LegCo building shortly, so I think that gives us an indication that police are finally, finally, after some eight hours, about to act.
Stay with CNN, we are following this dramatic story. Don't go anywhere; we'll be back after the break.
COREN: Welcome back, I am Anna Coren live from Hong Kong. We are witnessing extraordinary scenes here in this international city where very soon we are expecting police to move in and to disperse of the hundreds, if not thousands, of protesters who have entered the Legislative Council building and who are set up around it.
We got this warning from police a short time ago saying that they were going to move in to clear the scene because of the violent actions of protesters. So, that, no doubt, is a warning that after eight hours, eight hours from when protesters started ramming the glass doors of the Legislative Council building behind me, they are finally moving in to contain the situation. Did it every need to get this bad? Did it ever need to reach this point? Well, I think that is a question that is going to be debated for some time. But, we are getting word that the police will very soon move in.
Our Matt Rivers, he is inside the chamber, he is inside the Legislative Council building. Matt, do you realize, do the protesters realize that the police have issued this warning that they are preparing to move in?
RIVERS: Yes. We just asked a couple people that I questioned, Anna, in-between the phone interview I just did with you and this live shot. And they are fully aware and yet they seem to be staying. They seem to think that they can ride it out at least for the time being.
There are several dozen protesters in here along with the press contingence. So if we spin around here, we can show you a little bit of what we're looking at. So this is the Legislative chamber, right here. I mean this is where lawmakers sit.
This is where they come and debate bills like the extradition bill which really kicked off these protests in the first place. And if we want to just spin around here, Justin, I mean you can see that there are protesters just sitting in the seats that the legislators would use.
I mean over here, Justin, if you can show this over here. I mean this would be one of the microphones that the legislators clip on to engage in their debate. I mean we're right in the middle of this chamber and it's surreal. And so yes, they are fully aware that the police are coming here as is the press contingent that has made it in here.
But for the time being, there have been no signs that the protesters are going to leave. It's truly remarkable. And if you want to spin around, I want to show one more thing, Justin, if you could over this way. That sign right there above, that sign right there, that's where the president of the chamber would sit.
And the sign above would say there are no rioters, only tyranny. And so it's remarkable what protesters have been able to do here. They spent hours and hours trying to break down doors. First it was the glass partition, then it was metal barriers.
They made it in to the basement of this building and then they made their way up in to the most important room in this entire building. And there was no police presence, It was surreal to walk through those doors that had been smashed, glass on the floor everywhere and yet they made it all the way up.
They made it all the way up to this spot which is incredibly important to Hong Kong government. It is remarkable that I'm doing this live shot here. And the question now is where does it -- what happens next?
When the police come here, how do they move these people out if they're unwilling to leave? It's a question I don't have the answer to yet. It could be a violent answer. It could be a peaceful answer. We just don't know at this point.
COREN: Well, Matt if pepper spray is used, if tear gas is used, not just inside the council building but outside the council building where there are thousands of people and we were showing images just before supplies being brought in, food and supplies being brought in or those protesters basically setting up camp inside the Legislative Council building.
That if the police were to engage in that sort of action that it could then start a stampede. And we know what happens when people run and are crushed. It is a frightening thing. This is when injuries happen. I mean we saw June 12th police fire the rubber bullets, fire the tear gas. There were more than 80 people injured.
We are now talking about a contained area, a tight area where they are setting metal barricaders around the escalators, where there are many barricades outside the Legislative Council building. So I guess the question is Matt, do you really think that this can be resolved peacefully?
RIVERS: Yes, Anna, that basically that this is going -- I don't think it will be peaceful when they do it because it's very difficult to get in to and out of where we are. I mean this isn't some area that is completely wide open. It's completely easy to access. It took a while to get in here and I'm looking.
I'm in the middle of the Legislative Council chamber right now. There are three exits, but those exits are also the entrances. So where do they come in from and how do they get people out? It's a fascinating and kind of frankly a terrifying question for police. How do they engage here?
They waited so long, Anna, to engage and to make the choice, OK, now they've gone too far. It wasn't when they came in to the outer area that it is usually is to cheer outside the Legislative Council building.
It wasn't when they broke through the glass door. It wasn't when they broke through the metal barrier. It only was when they made it up to this room.
And so now they have a very difficult, almost - you know they're stuck between a rock and a hard place, they want to get these people out, they also don't want to escalate the situation. But it might be too - it might be too far gone at this point to get to that point.
And that's why everyone here is - you know, there's just no - there's no clear answer as to how this is going to work. If the - if the protesters choose not to leave and the police say they have to, well, you know what gives?
And it's - you know, this is an answer I think we're going to find out over the next couple of hours if police follow through on their prompt.
COREN: Yes, no doubt, this is going to play out in the coming hours after police issued that warning. Matt Rivers, please stand by. Let's go outside the Legislative Council building where our Nic Robertson is.
Nic, any sign of the police?
ROBERTSON: No sign of the police, but I'll tell you what I am seeing, Anna, and this is absolutely fascinating as I have this ring side seat to see the ebb and flow and peak and trough of this.
Right now, right in front of me, protesters are picking out the umbrellas that they've stashed here when they went inside the building. Hundreds and hundreds of umbrellas have been put inside these barricades in front of me here.
And the protesters now, I've watched them here in front of me and over to the side here, going through the umbrellas, picking out all the umbrellas that work and they're carrying them away, they're putting them in bags and taking them away. They're makeshift cardboard and cellophane wrapped shields that they all put down outside as they went inside the building.
They're picking those up and moving them off. These are protesters preparing for the next phase of what is to come, but they don't appear to want to fight to hold this ground, they are removing everything that they put into it.
The barriers remain, the crowd is thinning a little, they're tidying up as if you will after this rampage and taking away what they can use another day, I'm not saying they're all leaving, far from it.
A lot of people still hanging around, but the word since that police message that police were going to come in and clear the place, ever since that police message was made, there are protesters working together, many of them doing the same thing, picking up the umbrellas, the shields and other things that they can reuse another day.
This is the momentum of what's happening this moment, Anna.
COREN: So Nic, just quickly, you feel that they are packing up? Is that what they are doing?
ROBERTSON: No I think for now they are retrieving what they can use in the days to come or later tonight. This is not a retreat of people by any means, but they're aware that the police may be coming and they're taking the things that they brought with them here, the umbrellas, the shields and anything else that could be useful, taking it off, ready to use it in another time.
COREN: OK, Nic Robertson, please stand by for us. Let's now go to our Sherisse Pham who has been following the peaceful protests and we should also note that the Civil Human Rights Front, which organized these peaceful protests, this peaceful march this afternoon here in Hong Kong that they have issued a number that they say 550,000 people turned out to march.
Sherisse, what are you hearing?
SHERISSE PHAM, CNN REPORTER: Five hundred and fifty thousand people is what the organizers are saying and what we can say - what we can see behind us are still thousands of protesters who are occupying a major thoroughfare that runs right through the center and the heart of this international city, Anna.
And you can see right behind me literally not even two minutes ago these protesters dragged these metal barricades up this road and they are setting up, they are attaching plastic swift hatches, looping them together, barricading themselves in.
So I can confirm what Nic Robertson was suspecting in his report to you there is that these protesters were not packing up, that they were gathering their materials to bring them to another area as word has come down that police are going to be clearing this area outside of the Legislative Council.
We are just around the corner from where Matt and Nic are in the thick of the violent clashes and the - and the breach into the government building. And now we can see just a few moments ago we had thousands of people here on this road and they were called down to the main group, you can see just down the road there, protesters gathered and an order was issued and what we can see now is they are barricading themselves in.
And they look like they are going to be digging in for some hours, Anna.
COREN: Sherisse, absolutely extraordinary that they're gathering whatever they can find to potentially fight the police later this evening. Sherisse Pham, many thanks. Let's now have a look back at what started this protest movement.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
ROBERTSON: This was the moment protesters smashed through the glass of the Hong Kong Legislative Council building, after hours of using trollies, metal poles and crates full of rocks, shielded by umbrellas, the now infamous symbol of resistance to Chinese domination.
Just over my shoulder here you can probably hear what sounds like a battering ram. It is a battering ram of sorts. It is one of those barricades you just saw being used to try to batter into this government building. This is the main government building in Hong Kong.
It has been the focus of anger for thousands of violent protesters today. Once through the first layer of the building, protesters tore down metal fencing, and a group made it inside. The protesters looked well prepared, with gloves, masks and helmets. One told CNN we don't have a plan, we just want to say something, July
1st is often a day of protest of Hong Kong, marking the anniversary of the handover to China, 1997. While official celebrations were held, complete with a Chinese national anthem, protesters raised their own black flag of rebellion outside the government building.
The embattled Hong Kong chief executive responded during the ceremony, promising to change her style of governance.
CARRIE LAMHONG KONG CHIEF EXECUTIVE: (Through Translator) I will learn the lesson and ensure that the government's future work will be closer and more responsive to the aspirations, sentiments and opinions of the community.
ROBERTSON: But so far, that hasn't quelled calls for her resignation. While the breakaway group was violently smashing into the government headquarters, another much larger and more peaceful march through the city, marking the anniversary of the handover to China.
These latest demonstrations come after weeks of unrest triggered by a proposed new bill that would allow extradition to China. Although the government has suspended the bill for now, many in Hong Kong say they will continue to protest until the creep of Chinese influence into their lives is haulted.
Nic Robertson, CNN, Hong Kong.
(END VIDEO TAPE)