The Hong Kong government has strongly condemned the violent storming of parliament by hundreds of young protesters who defaced it and disappeared before police came to evict them around midnight on Monday, reports say.
Addressing local media at 4am on Tuesday, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam described the takeover of the Legislative Council (LegCo) as shocking and saddening.
The unprecedented protest coincided with the 22nd anniversary of the city’s handover to China.
Nothing matters more than the rule of law for Hong Kong and the protesters who defied it will face legal action, Lam said.
This means minimum jail term of 10 years for the young protesters.
Earlier in the day, hundreds of these activists protesting against the government’s extradition bill stormed LegCo by shattering the glass door at the entrance with iron bars and a metal cart filled with stones.
Dozens of police in riot gear tried to stop them by firing pepper spray. But the protesters held umbrellas and wore masks to block it.
The protesters threw a chemical powder at police through the crack on the glass door and the fumes hit officers who were not wearing the gas mask.
Once inside the LegCo’s main chamber, the youth started defacing the walls with graffiti mocking the city’s pro-Beijing leaders. They also tied trolleys to set up barricades.
Some of the activists sat on lawmakers’ chairs and one even stood on the table to make a speech.
Around 11pm local time, police warned the protesters to leave the building or face eviction. Journalists reporting from inside the LegCo chamber said the protesters appeared to be in no mood to leave the premises.
Around midnight, hundreds of police personnel in riot gear arrived at the LegCo complex and surrounded it. Some of them fired tear gas before moving into the building to flush out the activists who, by then, were probably heading home.
It is not clear how so many protesters managed to leave the building so quickly before the arrival of police. Maybe, they exchanged messages on when to “vanish” from the building after the police gave them a warning.
Live pictures showed police moving through various floors of the building and searching every room, including toilets, for protesters.
Hong Kong has been witnessing massive protests against an extradition bill which, many fear, may target democratic leaders, rights activists and thinkers.
Hong Kong’s government claims the bill will target only fugitives who try to make the city a haven for them.
Lam said on Monday that the bill is as good as dead. But Hong Kongers fear it may be reintroduced in LegCo sometime later.
Monday’s storming of parliament is another setback for Lam whose leadership is being questioned by pro-democracy activists.
But the delay in police action against the protesters is intriguing. For hours, the activists were allowed to occupy LegCo and damage it. This may be to show the world that Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests have taken an ugly turn.
Maybe, the government also wants the local public to reconsider whether they should still back the protesters.