Hong Kong protesters storm government building over China extradition bill
From the center of Hong Kong's occupied government, protesters have issued a list of demands, which they have called the "Admiralty Declaration."
Among their 10 demands are universal suffrage, the resignation of top officials associated with the extradition bill and an investigation into police brutality during the recent riots.
They have also called for all protesters who were arrested after the demonstrations on June 9 to be released and for the date to be made an official public holiday.
The demands were read out in the Legislative Council chamber.
It has been a historic night for Hong Kong, after demonstrators stormed the government headquarters in a dramatic escalation of tensions following weeks of protests.
Here's what you need to know:
- Why are people protesting? The Hong Kong government has tabled a bill which would allow people to be extradited to mainland China. Critics worry it would allow Beijing to snatch people for political reasons into the Communist Party's opaque legal system.
- Isn't Hong Kong part of China? Yes, but it has a different set of laws, under the One Country, Two Systems set up designed to give the city more freedom and a distinct rule of law to mainland China. Many Hong Kong people saw the extradition bill as eroding those special freedoms.
- How big have the protests been? The protests began on June 9. Since then, angered by perceived police brutality and the government's lukewarm response, up to 2 million protesters have taken to the streets -- that's a quarter of the city's population.
- What did the government do? Originally the government refused to budge but after mass protests they agreed to suspend the bill indefinitely.
- So why are people still protesting? The demonstrators want the bill completely withdrawn, not just paused. But it's not only that. Protesters are also now asking for democracy, the main demand of the 2014 Umbrella Movement, which immobilized the city's financial district for 79 days.
- What happens next? No one knows. Police are threatening to move in soon but no one knows when that might be. Protesters are setting up barricades outside the LegCo building in attempt to hold it.
Protesters have erected in LegCo portraits of the three officials responsible for the controversial extradition to China bill and the man they hold responsible for the crackdown on protesters on June 12, police chief Stephen Lo.
They have previously demanded that the four resign, as officials did over the Article 23 debacle in 2003, when the government tried to pass a law criminalizing acts of sedition and subversion against mainland China.
But so far none of these four have shown any sign of moving.
They've been overshadowed by the chaos at the government headquarters this evening, but an estimated 550,000 people took part in the peaceful pro-democracy march today.
That figure comes from the organizers of the July 1 march, the Civil Human Rights Front.
It marks a huge surge in year-on-year attendance, and is more than 10 times the 50,000 people estimated to have marched on July 1, 2018.
Police, however, said an estimated 190,000 people took part in today's march.
Images from the protest showed young and old people marching side-by-side. Some parents even brought along their young children.
Among the chants used by protesters were "(Chief Executive) Carrie Lam, step down!" and "Free Hong Kong."
Standing on a table inside the main legislative chamber, one of the protesters has called on the crowd to stay inside the Hong Kong government building tonight.
“If we leave now, we are going to be identified as rioters," he said. "We need to stay here until tomorrow. If we stay here and occupy the place, the lawmakers can have the meeting about the extradition bill.”
The crowd cheered and clapped when he finished.
In a video statement on their social media, Hong Kong police announced it would be clearing the area around the Legislative Council building.
Due to the violent actions of the protesters, the police will clear the scene around the LegCo building shortly,” the spokesperson said.
"The police will take appropriate force in the event of obstruction or resistance," the spokesman added.
Protesters were advised to clear the building as soon as possible, as the police condemned the violence and forced illegal entry into the building.
Hong Kong protesters have raised a black sign in the heart of Hong Kong's government, saying: "There is no way left."
On the reverse side, it reads: "There's no rioters, there's only tyranny."
The sign is a response to police claims that protesters engaged in rioting during the June 9 demonstration against the extradition to China bill.
The Hong Kong government has demanded that the protesters currently trashing the Legislative Council building “stop at once.”
In a statement, it condemned protesters for storming the government building saying they were affecting everyone’s safety.
The government added that the official annual July 1 march had been done in a peaceful and rational manner and said that it respected people’s right to demonstrate and voice their opinion.
Speaking inside the Legislative Council, which has been taken over by protesters, pro-democracy Labour Party lawmaker Fernando Cheung called the storming of the building a mistake.
“This is a complete trap, I’m sorry that people played into it," he said.
"Protesters could have been easily cleared by police, we’re not talking large numbers. The police did not do anything, they wanted this to happen, they wanted the public to see this.”
Cheung said that so far the protests had been "really reasonably" and "really peaceful."
But he said he understood that young people feel desperate. "They feel the lives of their comrades have been taken by the regime," he said.