Protesters in Hong Kong storm and deface parliament on anniversary of handover

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Protesters have forced their way into the central chamber of Hong Kong’s parliament after an hours-long siege.

Dozens of demonstrators broke through the glass of the Legislative Council (LegCo) building earlier in the day.

Hundreds then entered the building, spray-painting messages on the walls and carrying supplies for those occupying the premises.

The unrest followed a peaceful protest involving hundreds of thousands over a controversial extradition law.

Inside the central legislative chamber, one protester sprayed black paint across the emblem of Hong Kong on the rear wall – while another raised the old British colonial flag, which features the union jack.

UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt – currently competing to become the next British prime minister – tweeted that “UK support for Hong Kong and its freedoms is UNWAVERING on this anniversary day”.

“No violence is acceptable,” he wrote, “but [Hong Kong] people MUST preserve right to peaceful protest exercised within the law, as hundreds of thousands of brave people showed today.”

Earlier, police held signs warning they would use force if protesters charged the glass exterior walls. They later warned that anyone who breached an internal metal gate would be arrested.

But on each occasion, they decided not to move against the crowd – which was armed with plastic helmets, makeshift cardboard shields and umbrellas – and apparently fell back instead.

Hours later, police warned that protesters must clear the building or face “appropriate force” – a statement issued at about the same time the Hong Kong government labelled protesters’ actions as “extreme violence”.

Police had, however, used pepper spray and batons to contain crowds during earlier clashes.

Pro-democracy demonstrators had taken to the streets on the anniversary of the city’s handover from UK to Chinese rule.

This is the latest in a series of protests against a controversial bill that would allow extraditions to mainland China.

The government has agreed to suspend it indefinitely, but rallies continue amid calls for Chief Executive Carrie Lam to resign.

Hong Kong, a former British colony, has been part of China since 1997 under a “one country, two systems” deal that guarantees it a level of autonomy. Pro-democracy events are held every year to mark the handover.

The LegCo building was put on red alert for the first ever time on Monday – meaning people should evacuate the building and area.

But by 21:00, the watching crowd had grown rather than dispersed, and hundreds of protesters streamed through the broken glass into the building proper.

In the morning, a flag-raising ceremony to mark the handover took place inside the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, amid a heavy police presence.

Demonstrators blocked several roads nearby early using items like metal and plastic barriers.

Police officers equipped with shields, batons and pepper spray clashed with hundreds of protesters about 30 minutes before the ceremony.

At least one woman was seen bleeding from a head wound after the clashes, AFP news agency says.

A police statement condemned “illegal acts” by protesters who, it said, had taken iron poles and guard rails from nearby building sites.

Thirteen police officers were taken to hospital after protesters threw an “unknown liquid” at them, police said. Some are reported to have suffered breathing difficulties as a result.

Thousands joined a mostly peaceful pro-democracy march on Monday afternoon.

At about lunchtime, a breakaway group of protesters moved to LegCo. The small group began ramming the glass doors with a metal trolley, succeeding in smashing in the door, before largely dispersing.

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