Thursday 22 August 2019

Hong Kong protests ‘could worsen’ as police round-up demonstrators

The Legislative Council was stormed by pro-democracy demonstrators on Monday night.

Protesters broke into the Legislative Council in Hong Kong earlier this week (Johnson Lai/AP)
Protesters broke into the Legislative Council in Hong Kong earlier this week (Johnson Lai/AP)

By Ken Moritsugu, Associated Press

A pro-democracy politician in Hong Kong has expressed concern the situation could worsen after police arrested more than a dozen people following protests earlier this week.

Legislative Council member Claudia Mo called on people to understand the frustration and anger of the mostly youthful protesters, even if they have technically broken the law.

“I am terribly worried that a massive kind of round-up of protesters could trigger very negative sentiment on the part of the young,” she told reporters. “Things could get worse.”

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The demonstrators caused extensive damage to the building (Johnson Lai/AP)

Police have announced the arrest of 12 people who tried to disrupt a ceremony on Monday marking the anniversary of Hong Kong’s return from Britain to China in 1997.

Another person was arrested for his alleged involvement in the storming of the legislature building that night.

The city’s legislature will not be able to meet for three months because of extensive damage caused by the protesters, pro-democracy politician Helena Wong said.

She said the fire prevention and electronic voting systems need to be repaired and restored. She also said computer hard discs had been taken from the security control room, with the names, photos and titles of those who had building access.

A man has been charged with assaulting police, criminal destruction, misconduct in public places and forced entry of the Legislative Council complex, police said on Thursday. More arrests seem likely, given the extent of the damage.

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Protesters broke into the Legislative Council building as Hong Kong marked the anniversary of returning from Britain to China in 1997 (Kin Cheung/AP)

Eleven men and a woman were arrested over the Monday morning protest. They face various charges including possession of offensive weapons, unlawful assembly, assaulting a police officer, obstructing a police officer and failing to carry an identity document.

Pro-democracy protesters rushed police barricades around the time of a morning flag-raising ceremony marking the 22nd anniversary of the former British colony’s handover to China. Police used shields, batons and pepper spray to drive them back.

That afternoon, while hundreds of thousands of people were participating in a peaceful march marking the anniversary, a few hundred protesters began trying to break into the locked legislative building by smashing thick glass walls and prying open metal security curtains.

They poured into the building that night. In shocking scenes on Monday and early Tuesday, the protesters vented their anger at a government that has not responded to their demands.

They spray-painted slogans on the walls, stood on the desks in the legislature’s main chamber and climbed high to cover the city’s official emblem with black spray paint.

In Beijing, a foreign ministry spokesman renewed criticism of Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt over his remarks calling into question the Hong Kong government’s handling of the protests, including the use of tear gas and rubber bullets.

“As you mentioned earlier, some people in the UK are making irresponsible remarks on the Hong Kong issue. What I want to say is that previously, Mr Hunt has been making false remarks on the issue of Hong Kong,” Geng Shuang told reporters at a daily briefing.

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