Return to Transcripts main page
CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
CNN International: Hong Kong Protesters Take Over Legislative Council Chamber; Reports: Protesters to Leave Building at Midnight. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired July 1, 2019 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:00] ANNA COREN, CNN HOST: Welcome back, I'm Anna Coren live from Hong Kong where we have been witnessing extraordinary scenes inside and outside the Legislative Council building here behind me. There have been thousands, tens of thousands of protesters who had gathered around this Legislative Council building more than nine hours ago trying to storm the building. Well, they succeeded in storming the building, and in the last few hours they have managed to get right inside, right up into the chamber where they have graffitied walls. They have sprayed obscenities. They have defaced public property, and there are now hundreds, hundreds of protesters still inside that Legislative Council building.
Now, we did hear from police a short time ago. They issued a statement saying they were going to move in. They were going to move in because of those violent protesters, and they were going to clear the area around Legislative Council building, so we are waiting. We are waiting for those police to move in and clear, disburse the enormous crowds that have gathered. Did it ever need to get to this? Probably not. But that is something that will be debated in the days and weeks ahead. Our Matt Rivers he is inside the Legislative Council building. Matt, describe the scene to us.
MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anna, it's remarkable in here, frankly. The fact that we know and the protesters know that the police are on their way here and yet, I mean, you don't see the movement. Let's walk up this way, Justin, just a little bit. You can see there's a group of protesters here right over my right-hand shoulder, and they don't look very, you know, in any sort of an urgent move to leave. And that has been the mood here since we got in after there was chaos, you know. Frankly, there was chaos, there was elements of panic when they first broke into the Legislative Council building.
They had to go through glass walls that were shattered throughout the day. Then they worked for hours on these metal barriers, these metal gates that were the next layer of security, and they managed to get through that. And when they got through that they get into the basement of this building and there was no police. There were no riot gear. I think all of us were somewhat expecting that there would be police inside in full riot gear not allowing the people to come in, and yet, here we are. And you know, that is the main -- right there over my right shoulder, that's where the President of the chamber sits, and it is now, you know, a sign above that roughly reads there are no rioters, only tyranny. That's the sign that they brought in. And this side of the room, this is where the pro-Beijing lawmakers
usually sit, and there has been some damage to these desks. You can see right there that computer screen has been tipped over and a clear sign of which side these protesters are on.
Now, the question, Anna, and you and I have been talking about it for a while now, what happens next if the cops come in here? If they are finally deciding to come in with the riot gear and with the shields and with the pepper spray and the tear gas. I mean, look at this room. I mean, you can see it. Where are the exits, you know? There's an exit here. There's an exit to my left. There's an exit to my right. This is not a big open place, so -- and those exits also happen to be the entrances. So the cops come in the same place that they're expecting all these people to get moved out from. I mean, this is a logistical nightmare.
If it was difficult for police in the beginning to not let these people get into the building, to not let them breakthrough the doors, I can tell you that was a much easier problem than figuring out how you're going to peacefully get all of these people -- who you can argue are some of the most hard-core protesters that are involved in this movement -- how are you going to get them out of here peacefully? And maybe you don't. I don't know. I don't have an answer to that question. And it is something that the police are now going to grapple with in large part because they chose to allow this to happen. To allow the main government room, the main government building in Hong Kong to be occupied by protesters.
[11:05:00] It's stunning, frankly, the silence from the chief executive of this city, the police of this city up until just a few moments ago when they issued this warning to clear out. You know, for hours you know, we were wondering, where were they? You wouldn't see scenes like this, I don't think, in most developed places around the world, and yet here we are in the main room. This would be like sitting in the U.S. Senate with a whole bunch of protesters. It is fascinating. It is surreal. And yet here we are waiting on the police.
COREN: It is simply quite extraordinary and something that probably never, never needed to happen. It never needed to get this far. Matt, just quickly we want to know what other photos behind you or close to you, can you tell us about those?
RIVERS: So, I can tell you about them, but I can't show them to you because there is some very select language on those pictures, but it's some of the leaders of Hong Kong including the leader of the Justice Department, the Chief Executive, the head of police. It's a number of pictures often seen used in certain funeral services, and there's certain -- the chief of police is on there, and there are certain characters in Chinese written on there that really isn't very good for me to say, I think, out loud.
But they -- those four faces, you know, those are clearly the villains in the eyes of these protesters, the people who have committed the offenses in their mind that have brought them to this point. It's the people who pushed for the extradition law that sparked these protests in the first place. With then with the chief of police, it was, you know, perhaps him who allowed his officers to engage in the police brutality that these protesters allege happened back on June 12th, which became almost as important as the extradition bill itself. In terms of what people were protesting about, and there's a whole bunch of graffiti, the flag, the symbol of Hong Kong has been vandalized with spray paint. This room, which usually is a place of kind of stayed decorum in a lot of ways, although there have been a lot of incidents of passionate emotion between lawmakers in here, I don't know that this room has ever seen a scene like this before, and ultimately there could be violence when they try and move these people out.
COREN: Matt Rivers, please stand by. We will now go to our Nic Robertson who is outside the Legislative Council building where I believe there is some movement. Nic, what are you seeing?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, Anna, a few minutes ago I was telling you about people collecting up all the unused umbrellas and shields. What they have done in the last few minutes since then, people were coming out of the building in large numbers, protesters coming out. There were some people that were saying retreat, retreat, retreat, and they moved into this area around us here. The barricades that were here. They've moved them all off to one end of the building, and it appears that they're trying to build barricades towards my right here as a defense against the police.
There was a huge effort and a huge movement, and it shows you just how quickly these protesters can shift their center of focus and shift all the sort of paraphernalia protests with them. There were so many barricades here, and they literally picked them up. And the other quite extraordinary thing in the middle of all of this chaos, people were picking up brooms that were laying around here and sweeping up this debris into the street as if to sort of say, well, we've done this. We're going to tidy it up, and now we're moving the center of the focus and the clash of the protests where they think the police are going to come to them from.
And it seems very clear they're organizing themselves to defend their approach that they're anticipating from the police. So is this going to escalate down here into a confrontation with the police, not clear at all, but it does seem that the protesters have it in their mind to shift all of this barricading to a certain area and take up positions there.
So that's where I see people gathered now to the right of me here. They're still coming and going from the building, but they're shifting the focus now to what they seem to anticipate will be that movement in here with the police to try to clear them out.
COREN: I guess the question is, Nic, because of all the barricades that have been set up by the protesters and also just the buildings, if the police were to act with force, if they were to spark a stampede with tear gas, even charging at protesters, it could trigger a stampede.
[11:10:00] People could get trampled. People could get seriously hurt. ROBERTSON: There's no doubt about that at all. No doubt about it
whatsoever. There's -- from where I'm standing, there's a narrow walkway that walks up and out of this lower basement level. It would be so easy to imagine people racing to get away, crowding and some unfortunate souls tipping over the edge of that. That's just one example or someone falling in a middle of a stampede. You ask yourself this question as well. What happens if the police come from a number of directions? If they come from out of the building behind me here and across from the park in front of me. Is that why the protesters are barricading themselves here. If the police come from several directions and corner the protesters here. Will they then proceed to try to pick them off and arrest them.
So it's going to be an enormous job for the police to clear this area without having that sort of mass casualty or significant casualty event because so many people here, the passions are so high, and I've seen the moments where they thought the police were coming and people literally run and speed away. So it's easy to see how in that melee of people trying to escape. What they fear are the police behind them. Of people falling over, getting trampled and getting hurt. So how the police handle this, how they move in is going to be a measure of how many people stand to get injured right now.
COREN: Nic, it feels like police have been sitting on their hands for more than nine hours. They have allowed the protesters to storm the building. That they didn't really put up much of a defense, if any. There was a bit of pepper spray that was fired. But as soon as the protesters were able to breakthrough, they disappeared. I mean, how responsible is that sort of policing? The fact that there's a force here, one of the best police forces in the region just sitting on their hands, while anarchy is happening inside the Legislative Council building.
ROBERTSON: So the police have told us that they would have 32,000 police officers available in the city to help man this protest. So why only several hundred were inside the Legislative Building? Why several thousand weren't deployed to secure the environment of the building? Knowing and understanding that this would be a focus for the protests.
We don't know the details of why the police made the decisions. Were they lacking on information that this is where the protesters would come to, although this has been apparent through the day. The police didn't move their numbers then . S I think people are going to ask that precise question. Why did the police sit on their hands? Was it for political reasons? Was it because they were so heavily criticized last time for taking a heavy hand with the protesters? Is it because they simply haven't received instructions from above about what to do, about what level of casualties their legislators are here, the Chief Executive is willing to take.
What level are the police willing to withstand what level of violence is the government willing to withstand. And perhaps that's why there's been hesitation here. And sometimes in these situations where there's hesitation it's because a key person doesn't feel that they can make the decision. So is this through a lack of experience, a lack of knowledge, a lack of ability, or a lack of will, or is it strategic? Is it because they want to let the protesters have their way and show the damage they can do and use that argument against them in the future?
COREN: Of course. And this plays into the government's hands. It certainly plays into the hands of Carrie Lam the city's chief executive who at the get-go labeled these protesters as rioters during those initial clashes with police on the 12th of June. But the fact that we haven't heard from her. The fact that there has been no statement from the city's Chief Executive I find quite staggering when she has thousands, tens of thousands of people surrounding the Legislative Council building. Let's now go to our Sherisse Pham who is with protesters. Sherisse, what are the protesters saying where you are if the police move in?
SHERISSE PHAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anna what I want to show you here actually is we've got the protesters just coming up behind us making these barricades.
[11:15:00] Setting up these umbrellas to protect themselves if police come and deploy that tear gas and the pepper spray that we have seen them use on protesters in the past. And just moments ago what we saw is I know that you've been speaking with Nic and with Matt and they have said they have not seen a police presence in the Legislative Council. We don't know where they are. We have been seeing a police presence -- a police gathering, if you will, here in the Hong Kong government headquarters. They have been sort of milling about, getting geared up, getting kitted out in the riot gear.
And just minutes ago they came out to sort of confront, I guess you could say, the protesters who have tried to barricade the police in so that they can't exit through this one gate coming out of the Hong Kong government headquarters, and they were putting up metal barricades, pushing them against the gate and sort of clanging steel rods I would imagine back and forth against the gate, so you could hear this clang, clang, clang. Police came out, and they were flashing flashlights into the faces of the protesters, and a bunch of them just ran up towards the gate with umbrellas held at the ready to protect, I'm sure, not only their fellow protesters for fear that tear gas or pepper spray or anything else could be deployed, but also to hide their identities.
Earlier today we've been on this main thoroughfare of Hong Kong, usually would be jammed with traffic. Instead, today it's been jammed with tens of thousands of protesters. And I walked down this road a little bit earlier and was taking some photos of the massive numbers of people who had turned out today and very quickly, a lot of the protesters came up to me and they were very worried asking me if they could see my photo saying please, no faces, don't take photos, don't show our faces. And these are protesters that already had gas masks, surgical masks across half of their face hiding most of their identity, and still they're already worried about being identified through photos that could be posted on social media or posted online.
So that's what we're seeing here in Harcourt Road, Anna and right now it's peaceful, and they're barricaded in, and the umbrellas are out, and they look like they're digging in for the long haul. COREN: I truly, Sherisse, I find this just quite staggering that they
are going to take on police with umbrellas and steel barricades. Sherisse Pham, stay with us, we are covering this story very closely. We are expecting the police to move in very soon. They issued that statement a short time ago saying they were going to clear the area around the Legislative Council building. Stay with CNN much more after the break.
[11:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
COREN: Welcome back. I'm Anna Coren live from Hong Kong where we are witnessing, quite frankly, dramatic scenes here in Hong Kong, something that we have never seen before. Protesters have stormed the Legislative Council building. They are in the chamber. They are now barricading themselves in the chamber. That is the latest report that we have received.
Meanwhile, there are protesters out here in Tamar Park, thousands of them, chanting in Cantonese, saying add oil, add oil. That means keep up the momentum. Don't stop now. So those protesters inside the Legislative Council building certainly have a lot of support outside.
We are, however, waiting for the police. They issued a statement in the past 10, 15 minutes saying they were going to move in and clear the area. So everyone very much on high alert for when the police finally move in. Our Matt Rivers, he's inside the Legislative Council building in the chamber where protesters are barricading themselves in. Matt, tell us what's going on?
RIVERS: Yes, it's very interesting, Anna. And right now I'm looking at a group of protesters who are arguing amongst themselves about what the next step should be. You know, my view of what's going on in the broader building is obviously very limited. I'm just in the main chamber room here with those protesters who have made their way in, and they're deciding whether to stay or whether to go. There have been two or three vocal protesters as far as I can tell who are urging the others to leave because they say the police are on their way.
And there have been just as vocal arguments on the other side to say, you know what? We should stay here. We've come this far. We should be staying, and if one person stays, we all should stay to protect everyone.
It gives you an idea of the fact that this is a democratic protest if you will in the truest sense of the form, in the sense that there is no leader to these protests. This is very much kind of a collective decision that is being made here, and it's unclear exactly how this is going to play out. But for the first time since we got in here, I'm getting the sense that the people that are in here, the protesters that are in here, there is a growing sense of tension in terms of how this is going to play out. I think it's going to be quite intense in terms of how this plays out and I don't know which of these sides of the argument is ultimately going to win out here.
COREN: Yes, Matt, you make a very interesting point because the fact that this movement is leaderless, leaving it up to protesters to debate, it's almost like their own democracy is almost causing more problems. It is just staggering to think that there are people inside the chamber who have barricaded themselves inside the chamber debating on whether or not they should leave knowing full well that the police are coming. Well, Matt Rivers please stand by.
We are now going to go to Alan Hoo, who is the vice chairman of the Hong Kong pro-business liberal party. He is a pro-Beijing supporter. Alan, first your reaction to what is going on inside the Legislative Council building?
ALAN HOO, VICE CHAIRMAN, HONG KONG LIBERAL PARTY: Well, we are witnessing a very critical stage of the protest movement because as you were saying, while they seem to be leaderless, that's not true. There's no central leadership. It's obviously a huge movement to mobilize people out to the street in such numbers, and in such frequency. But at the moment, what they're doing is that the objective is what? Is it a bill? The bill is dead. It is as good as dead. Even the pro-democracy legislators know it's dead. Then what is the point?
At the start of the protests today, I see that the leaders of the movement were saying that, no, we want to have a political change. We want to have universal suffrage in our way. We want the chief executive to resign. So you see the different agendas. But maybe the agendas are not shared by all people.
COREN: But Alan, they are calling for Carrie Lam's resignation from the get-go. They are taking the action that they are taking and by no means am I condoning their action they are taking this action to get the reaction from the government, to get them to take notice. Because they feel that their demands are not being listened to, that Carrie Lam and her government including yourself are not listening to the protesters.
[11:25:04] HOO: I think there's no doubt that what they're saying is well listened to, not just by us in Hong Kong but internationally, and that you must be deaf and blind not to see what's going on. What is happening here is that you reach a critical point, for example, with the police, what they want is no police action. So the police today made a point, right? You're going to attack the legislative building. There's nobody inside. There's no session. I mean previously has stopped a few paying taxes. You're stopping people in the immigration department today. You're going it come into a building which they tried to stop. But when they failed, they say all right, come in, and what happened? They trashed the legislative chamber, completely trash it. This is not a protest movement. This is vandalism. It doesn't have to do with dissent at this stage. When you have a proper agenda --
COREN: This is vandalism, absolutely.
HOO: The days of revolution --
COREN: This is vandalism but why did the police, why did the police, Alan, allow this to happen? They have been sitting on this --
HOO: The police don't know what's going to happen. It's an empty --
COREN: Why haven't they contained the situation?
HOO: It is an empty building. They will be criticized for why are you using violence to stop people --
COREN: Police are there to enforce law and order.
HOO: All right, you go first. Sorry, I didn't hear that, go ahead. Say again.
COREN: Police are there to enforce law and order. Police are there -- police are there to enforce law and order despite the fact there is nobody inside the Legislative Council building, it is public property.
HOO: My turn. The police tried to stop them coming in. They failed. They broke the windows. They came in. The police had to make a decision, right, do we stop them with force. Do we use tear gas. There are so many people outside, do we stop them, and then they made a decision no. We don't know what they want. It's an empty building. Let them go in. What do they do? They didn't do it just to occupy the building. They just trashed it, completely trashed it and all sorts of things went up, like the colonial flag went up. What is the agenda there? That's got nothing to do with Carrie Lam -- the old colonial flag. Right? Defacing the Hong Kong flag.
All these offensive things to the dignity of Chinese people in Hong Kong. Why are they doing that? Is that the agenda? I think that the breakdown of law and order is the critical point we reach today and the people of Hong Kong I'm sure when you wake up tomorrow the reality sinks in, and this is a breakdown of the rule of law. It doesn't matter which community in the world this is. The world is watching, and this is not what a peaceful protest is about. You don't even know what you want.
COREN: You are absolutely right, Alan. The world is watching. The world is watching anarchy take place inside Hong Kong's Legislative Council building. This is Hong Kong. This is not a third world country. This is not a third world city. This is one of the --
HOO: And that's precisely the point.
COREN: -- one of the biggest international financial hubs in the world, and yet there are hundreds if not thousands of people who have stormed that building, so why haven't police stopped them?
HOO: This is a third -- this is not a third world country. You said it. You don't expect people to behave like this. I can tell you, there's anybody who's lived or worked in Hong Kong would not expect the scene that we've seen today. You trash the Legislative Council today. You blocked government buildings yesterday. What next, are you going to trash the courts now? Are you going to go to the courts and trash it? I think law and order is at a critical stage, and I think that will be restored and the community will be able to settle down and with the help of the international community, scrutinizing everything, I think that the real issues in this whole exercise will come out.
COREN: Well, Alan, let me ask you this, do you believe that police can resolve this peacefully? There are hundreds of people inside that building. There are thousands, if not tens of thousands outside it. Can this be resolved peacefully?
HOO: I am not a law enforcement expert, but I will say that the police should be there to prevent any danger to whoever the occupants inside the building, whether they could be trespassers, safety should be number one. But I think that the rule of law is something that they want to bring with them, the law and order. Which means they might want to take everybody's names down, right. They want to know who are there, that there will be a price to pay, but they certainly want to restore law and order now. And I think the way they will do it is something which will be at the momentum where the peace of the people and the safety of the people will best be preserved. At least that's what we all hope.
[11:30:00] COREN: We certainly do hope. We do hope that this can be resolved peacefully and that there are no casualties. Alan Hoo thank you very much for joining us.
Stay with CNN. We are closely monitoring this developing story here at the Legislative Council building in Hong Kong. You are watching CNN. Much more after the break.
COREN: Welcome back to CNN, I'm Anna Coren live from Hong Kong. We are getting word from inside the Legislative Council building and those protesters who have convened in the chamber who have barricaded themselves in the chamber. We are now hearing that they have decided that they are going to stay until midnight.
That's in about half an hour's time, and that at midnight they will leave the Legislative Council building, so if the Hong Kong police are listening to this, that is what we are hearing from the protesters, that they are prepared to leave peacefully at midnight. Our Nic Robertson, he is standing by outside the Legislative Council building. Nic, what are you hearing?
ROBERTSON: What we're hearing, Anna, is that the people who have gathered around me, many of them sitting down now, it's been a long day for all of them, they're going to remain here until those people do -- the other protesters inside the building come out. There does seem to be this collective agreement that's being discussed. Of course there are many opinions and no leaders, so it may take some time to settle on it, but that does seem to be the way the decision-making is going here.
[11:35:00] People are listening to speeches being given here. They're sitting. It's very peaceful. I have to say it's very relaxed right now looking around here, I think perhaps they all are wondering having achieved this how do they end it, what do they want to do? Do they really want this confrontation with the police? But it does seem at the moment at least that that's the direction
events are heading in. Of course the protesters are only one part of this, the police are another part of it, and as you say, as you indicated there, the police may not be aware of this, they may not trust this decision. They may already have their own plans about what they want to do because clearly laws have been broken. So how will the police decide to move ahead with the protesters? At the moment, this feels peaceful, and if it is winding down, that's how it feels. If it ratchets back up in a few minutes I still wouldn't be surprised, Anna.
COREN: Yes, Nic, you mentioned the laws that have been broken. I mean, these protesters, they have stormed the building. They have trespassed. They have vandalized. They have defaced. They have damaged public property. I am presuming that if these protesters are arrested, they're going to be looking at significant jail time, especially if they're labeled as rioters.
ROBERTSON: Well, and how are the police going to prove it in court? There have been so many people here, yes, police we've seen them taking video. They may be able to catch one or two, but I think if the police do go down that road, then that's going to cause more protests and obviously a huge amount of scrutiny about the evidence that police put forward to pinpoint specific individuals taking on specific acts of vandalism and riot as they describe it and behavior that's led to the damage in the building.
There is no doubt that all of this has happened, but it's different when you get into a court proving individual accountability. Of course we're looking way too far ahead. This is still a protest and a demonstration that's going on. The demonstrators are still inside the building here, inside those chambers. The protesters are still all around me outside here, and the police haven't reclaimed this government property yet, so maybe we're getting ahead of ourselves here, but all of this, all of this is clearly weighing on the minds of people as they sit around here. How do they act and behave through the rest of the evening?
COREN: OK. Nic, we're trying to make contact with Matt Rivers inside the Legislative Council building. Obviously, phone lines are jammed, communications are down. Everyone is experiencing difficulty because of the number of people that are here, so we are still working on that. Let's now go to our Sherisse Pham who is also with the protesters. She is at a different part of the Legislative Council. Sherisse, last time we spoke, you mentioned the protesters were setting up barricades. They looked like they were in for the long haul. Has anything changed?
PHAM: They have settled in. They do look like they're still here for the long haul, and what we were just seeing a few minutes ago were the protesters who had barricaded the exits that the police would use to exit the Hong Kong government headquarters. So we have seen every ten minutes or so five or six police geared up in riot gear coming out to assess the situation, to see what the protesters are doing.
We've seen the protesters tear up the metal barricades that usually block off the sidewalk from the main roads and use those to push against this gate to block in and hem in the police there, and they've been hurling insults. The protesters have been hurling insults across the gate at the police calling them dogs and other things that we probably cannot say on air. They've also taken a water hose, and they've just started spraying. It's unclear what their final goal is here, Anna.
What we know is that they are setting up camp here and barricading themselves in, and they don't look like they're going to be moving anytime soon. They've also set up the umbrellas, iconic symbol of the occupy movement from 2014. It's not only an iconic symbol, it's also a form of protection. It's something that can protect these protesters from tear gas or pepper spray that the police could deploy, and it's also something that can protect the protesters' identity.
[11:40:00] We've talked to a few protesters here, and they've been very adamant that they don't want their photos taken. They don't want their images to be posted online because they're worried about being identified from those photos later on by police, even though these protesters -- and again they're so young, 17, 18, 19 years old, they're already coming out here covering half of their face with a surgical mask already making it really difficult to identify who they are, and yet they are still already so worried.
And so just taking a look over at what is happening at the government headquarters, really it seems to be a bit of a tinderbox situation. We've got police milling around assessing the situation, seeing if they're going to escalate things. At the moment, not yet. Still a standoff with protesters really looking like they're digging in for the long haul, Anna.
COREN: Well, at the moment, Sherisse, we're counting down to midnight. That is when the protesters inside the chamber of the Legislative Council building said that they will walk out of the chamber, out of the building peacefully. That is the message that we have received from those protesters inside the chamber. We are following this story very closely. Stay with CNN. Much more after the break.
COREN: Welcome back, I'm Anna Coren live from Hong Kong where we are waiting to see if those protesters inside the chamber of the Legislative Council building keep their word and actually walk out peacefully at midnight. Obviously, we heard from police a little earlier, they issued a statement saying that they were going to come in and clear the area around the Legislative Council building, which of course is where there are thousands of protesters who are based outside, not to mention those who are inside the actual building.
Joining me now is a very special guest. His name is Martin Lee. He is, of course, the founder of the pro-democracy movement here in Hong Kong, and Martin, I am fascinated to learn what you think of what has unfolded here tonight.
MARTIN LEE, HONG KONG LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL MEMBER: It's so sad, if anything happens to any of our children, I don't know what I would do. For 35 years we want to bring democracy to Hong Kong, and it was promised in the Sin-British joint declaration, and then constitution, the basic law, and we are still waiting. There's no date yet as to when we are going to have democracy in Hong Kong.
COREN: Martin, if ever, I mean, if you listen to the Chinese, they are planning on absorbing Hong Kong as of 2047.
[11:45:00] LEE: Of course, and so many terrible things have been happening. First of all, they deny us democracy so the Hong Kong people have no say as to who our leader is going to be or who our legislators are going to be. We are not given the vote, and then we are promised that Beijing will not interfere in Hong Kong's affairs and now they are running this place. And so they kept on breaking the joint declaration and the basic law, and the world was silent.
Now, and these things continue to happen, and I was doing my best to bring it to the attention of the world. Now this one, this extradition treaty will make it possible, if that bill had been passed, and it's only suspended. Now if that bill becomes law, anyone coming to Hong Kong like you --
COREN: Of course.
LEE: -- can just be sent back to China for trial.
COREN: Of course.
LEE: So these young people are defending the city.
LEE: They are trying to do what I failed to deliver.
COREN: What you failed to deliver. That's what you feel, you failed to deliver. And they are now doing your work.
LEE: Yes, because I trusted them. Because I trusted them. I trusted China when they say one country, two systems. Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong with a high degree of autonomy. We were promised democracy. We were promised no interference. And all these are now broken promises, and these children of ours, they don't want that. They want to keep Hong Kong as a city they know best, so they are risking their lives even. I think some of them are prepared to die.
COREN: I think you're absolutely right. I mean, Martin, do they have to storm the Legislative Council building? Did they have to deface public property? Did they have to graffiti obscenities across the chamber? Did that have to happen?
LEE: As an 81-year-old guy I would not do it, but this was a trap. Where in the country, where in any country in the world, any city, would you have the police force waiting inside a government building, this is a Legislative Council building, right, just behind this glass door, which is bullet proof and very strong, and there were only three or four guys trying to breakthrough spending four hours trying to breakthrough. And the police just waited, waited, waited, and until finally they broke the door, and when they went in the police dispersed. The police disappeared and let them go in, so the police knew they would be doing this. Why?
COREN: So you believe this was a trap?
LEE: Of course, what else?
COREN: A trap by the Hong Kong police to set up these protesters or to make them look like rioters, to make them look up like the hooligans the government wants to portray them as?
LEE: I was watching that at home, and I was praying that these students would not do that. How can you blame them? They're so young, and this is the first time they're fighting for democracy and to save the city.
COREN: But Martin, there was such, such enormous support for these protesters.
LEE: Of course.
COREN: There was such goodwill, not just here in Hong Kong but across the world. I mean, you have a quarter of the population here in Hong Kong turn out for that march of 2 million people two Sundays ago, and the world was cheering. The world was cheering for these protesters, and now this anarchy, these acts of vandalism. Are you concerned? Are you concerned that this is going to --
LEE: Of course.
COREN: Discredit them? That this is going to turn people against them?
LEE: Those two huge marches won the hearts of the whole world, but what did our government do? Nothing, nothing, nothing. And then these students raise money quickly and advertise in the most leading newspapers for the G20, nothing happened there either. And Carrie Lam said this morning, 12 hours ago, that she would patiently listen, and then some of our legislators told her, asked her, please meet some student representatives, things are happening here, which people don't want to see.
She would not meet the students, and then the legislators themselves meet us. No time. You tell the students to disperse. Come on. They are -- they can easily have stopped this. They deliberately laid this trap, yes. I didn't like that, but the students fell into it, and now they'll be prosecuted. I don't know how many years. I don't know how many years they --
COREN: There are going to be people who will be arrested when this is done.
LEE: And this government is going to lose one whole generation of what could be the best people that we have. COREN: That is heartbreaking. That truly is. Martin Lee, thank you
very much for speaking to us. It is a very difficult time as somebody who has defended democracy here in Hong Kong to witness these scenes that we have been witnessing over the last few hours. Stay with CNN. We will continue to follow this story after the break.
[11:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
COREN: Welcome back to Hong Kong. I'm Anna Coren. We have been following the dramatic scenes here at the Legislative Council building after protesters, thousands of protesters, tens of thousands of protesters gathered around the building and many stormed inside and made their way into the chamber. I am now joined by one of the students, one of the protesters who has been there on the scene. His name is Vincent Ng Yat-ming. He's a student leader of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Vincent, why have the protesters done what they've done today?
[11:55:00] VINCENT NG YAT-MING, EXTERNAL VICE PRESIDENT, HKUST STUDENT UNION: Well, we have been fighting for a month, like, from the 12th of June to now, and whether it's until now the 22nd year of the establishment of the HKSAR. We still haven't got any response from the HK government, and they are very passive for our request, and so today under no other bargaining chip, we had to occupy the Legislative Council.
COREN: But it's not just occupying the Legislative Council. You have trespassed. You have vandalized. You have defaced public property. You have spray painted obscenities across the chamber wall. Was that really required?
NG YAT-MING: For that because we have been planning getting into any of the government bureaus and Legislative Council that's what we decided on today, and other we got in, we cannot control our protesters, what for they do. We can -- I mean, we can regard this as civil disobedience.
COREN: So you think what has taken place over the last few hours is civil disobedience?
NG YAT-MING: Because we cannot get any kind of response, we have to maybe break some kind of law. And just take some response from the government.
COREN: But Vincent by breaking laws means that so many people are going to get arrested. There are going to be repercussions.
NG YAT-MING: Yes.
COREN: You can't just walk away from this and go home tonight, wake up tomorrow and continue your campaign. There are going to be repercussions.
NG YAT-MING: Yes. I think all the people getting into the Legislative Council, they have already been prepared for what they have done, and maybe just bear the responsibility of their movement, so just that's what we have discussed earlier.
NG YAT-MING: And Yes.
COREN: Well, Vincent, we appreciate you coming to speak with us and sharing the thoughts of protesters. We wish you well.
NG YAT-MING: Thanks.
Coren: All right, let's now go to our Nic Robertson. He is staged outside the Legislative Council building. Nic, we're obviously approaching midnight. That is the time when many of these protesters inside the chamber who had barricaded themselves inside this chamber said they were going to walk out peacefully. Any sign of them, any movement from police?
ROBERTSON: There's a real air of sort of anticipation and expectation, but no sign of sort of a big movement of people from inside the building. However, earlier on half an hour ago when a crowd, a big crowd came out of the building, a huge round of applause here for them went up from the crowd outside. This crowd does seem to be staying here as long as there's people inside the building. It's still a fluid situation. The people standing here now are listening to various speeches.
A pro-democracy legislator was down here before speaking to the crowd saying it called for a meeting this evening with the chief executive Carrie Lam, that she has not responded to a request for the meeting to debate and talk about what should happen next. He says that's contrary to what she said in her speech this morning at the flag raising ceremony commemorating the anniversary of 22 years since the British handed Hong Kong over to China.
So at the moment, it really is the stalemate is on. I don't think it's clear at all which way it's going to go at the moment. We've seen the protesters here organize themselves, move the barricades to other locations. It seems that they are ready to potentially take on the police if the police come in from surrounding areas. It's still all in play right now, Anna.
COREN: Yes, it really is quite extraordinary what we are witnessing, Nic, and this could go one way or the other. Either the police intervene peacefully. They somehow bring in mediators, negotiators, and help for this to be resolved peacefully, or it ends in violence. Stay with CNN, much more coming up next hour.