Hong Kong protesters storm government building over China extradition bill

By Ben Westcott, Jessie Yeung, James Griffiths, Julia Hollingsworth, Steve George and Jenni Marsh, CNN

Updated 3:13 a.m. ET, August 31, 2019
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12:33 p.m. ET, July 1, 2019

British colonial flag hung in Hong Kong legislative chamber

Hong Kong protesters are now in the Legislative Council chamber ... the very heart of the government.

After spraying slogans in Cantonese on the wall behind the President's chair, one protester attempted to hang the British colonial-era flag over the city's crest.

But unable to get it to stay up, they instead spray painted the red Bauhinia crest black and hung the flag off the podium of the Legislative Council President's desk.

Hong Kong was a British colony until 1997, when it was handed back to China.

CNN/John McGrane
CNN/John McGrane

The British colonial flag has become a regular sight at protests in recent years.

CNN/ James Griffiths
CNN/ James Griffiths

9:44 a.m. ET, July 1, 2019

Protesters spray paint: "HK Gov f***ing disgrace"

From CNN's James Griffiths

Protesters are vandalizing the heart of the Hong Kong's government, tearing portraits off the walls and spraying painting slogans on the walls and furniture.

In the main lobby of the Legislative Council, demonstrators have written on the wall: "HK Gov f**king disgrace" in English.

Underneath, in Cantonese it says: "Release the martyrs."

Meanwhile, other protesters are tearing the building's furniture apart, destroying computers and ripping down displays.

Never in the recent history of Hong Kong protests have demonstrators been so actively destructive or angry.

CNN/James Griffiths
CNN/James Griffiths

9:21 a.m. ET, July 1, 2019

Destruction and celebration inside stormed HQ

From CNN's Eric Cheung and James Griffiths

Protesters are cheering and waving umbrellas in the air inside the Hong Kong Legislative Council building, where just hours ago stood dozens of riot police.

Early images from inside the government headquarters show the demonstrators are very much in control of the building for now.

CNN/James Griffiths
CNN/James Griffiths

CNN/James Griffiths
CNN/James Griffiths

9:16 a.m. ET, July 1, 2019

Hong Kong's center of government abandoned to protesters

From CNN's James Griffiths and Ben Westcott

Imagine if the US Congress was stormed en masse by a group of angry young protesters or if the Houses of Commons at Westminster was occupied.

This is what has happened in Hong Kong tonight.

After a day of angry clashes between protesters and police, and vandalism of the building's exterior, demonstrators finally breached a metal shutter leading to the building just before 9 p.m. local time.

Riot police who had been standing behind the door retreated, effectively leaving the building to hundreds of protesters who poured inside.

Inside the building, the atmosphere is a mix of cheering and destruction, as demonstrators smash everything in sight while chanting "add oil."

9:14 a.m. ET, July 1, 2019

Video of the moment Hong Kong protesters stormed the government

From CNN's James Griffiths

They'd been leading up to it all day. But this is the moment protesters finally stormed the Hong Kong government headquarters.

Hundreds are now pouring into the main areas of the building. Police appear to have retreated.

Here are the protesters breaking through the metal shutter.

8:58 a.m. ET, July 1, 2019

Protesters have broken into Hong Kong Legislative Council building

Hong Kong protesters have broken in to the heart of the city's government, the Legislative Council, by wrenching open a metal shutter at the entrance.

Riot police have temporarily retreated from the entrance but remain inside the building.

Multiple protesters have told CNN there is no plan for what to do once they're inside.

8:45 a.m. ET, July 1, 2019

Protesters close to breaking down metal shutters into LegCo

From CNN's James Griffiths and Ben Westcott

Protesters use metal rods to smash glass doors and windows of the government headquarters in Hong Kong on July 1.
Protesters use metal rods to smash glass doors and windows of the government headquarters in Hong Kong on July 1. Philip Fong/AFP/Getty Images.

Protesters have forced a heavy steel shutter blocking an entrance to the Hong Kong Legislative Council (LegCo) half way open and are continuing to batter it.

People standing at the front of the lines of the protest say they can feel the air conditioning from inside the building.

The angry demonstrators gained access to a small lobby area inside LegCo earlier this evening by smashing a hole in the glass entrance doors.

Waiting behind the metal door are dozens of Hong Kong riot police, helmeted and carrying heavy shields.

Protesters are still chanting for the withdrawal of the China extradition bill which has been suspended but not formally withdrawn.

Things look almost certain to turn violent if the protesters break through.

8:31 a.m. ET, July 1, 2019

Where are the protesters?

From CNN's Natalie Leung

Here's a map of where the protests are taking place today. The annual July 1 pro-democracy march usually snakes from Victoria Park to Central.

The violent protest that has seen demonstrators smash windows and inch inside the government headquarters is located at the Legislative Council near the end of that route.

Some protesters from the peaceful march are peeling off to the LegCo building as they near the end of the official protest.

8:35 a.m. ET, July 1, 2019

Ugly, violent night looms, as young protesters lay waste to LegCo

Analysis by James Griffiths, CNN

Tensions are growing outside the Hong Kong government headquarters, known as the Legislative Council (LegCo), where protesters have smashed multiple windows and torn down barriers, so far without any reaction from police.

Several thousand protesters are packed into the demonstration zone outside LegCo’s public entrances, wearing helmets and masks. Their arms are wrapped in cling film to protect them from pepper spray.

There is little to no leadership and only spontaneous coordination. That's led to confusion about how and when protesters should break in to LegCo ... and what they’ll do even if they can get inside.

The protesters are all very young and very aware of the risks they are taking, hiding their faces and blocking reporters from taking photos. Some have even demand that images be deleted if they fear someone has been compromised.

As the sun starts to go down here, the feeling is that we’re headed for an ugly, violent night.

Police patience cannot last forever and official statements suggests it’s almost run out. Protesters, meanwhile, are determined to stay on, even if that means fighting.