Update: July 2, 6:10 a.m. HKT
Hong Kong Chief Executive has condemned the “extremely violent” storming of the legislature building by protesters on the night of July 1.
“[The protesters’ actions] seriously affect the core values of Hong Kong’s rule of law,” Lam said at a press conference held in the early hours of July 2. “This is something that we should seriously condemn.”
She also said the incident would be thoroughly investigated.
Update: July 2, 4:00 a.m. HKT
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam will convene a press conference at 4 a.m. local time to address the protesters storming the legislature building last night.
The presser will be live-streamed here.
Update: July 2, 12:48 a.m. HKT
Multiple rounds of tear gas were fired toward protesters as a large number of police officers made their way toward the Legislative Council building around midnight.
Footage of the scene shows police wearing helmets and riot shields. Smoke emerged near the road, as many protesters began to flee when the police approached. A small number of protesters holding umbrellas continued to stay in the area.
Earlier the Hong Kong Police Force stated in a tweet and a Facebook post that they severely condemned the protesters’ storming of the legislature building and will begin to evacuate the area.
“The LegCo Building was violently attacked and forced to enter illegally … The police will conduct sweeping in a short period of time and will take reasonable force. The police also appeal for unrelated protestors to leave the vicinity,” according to the statement.
Labour Party legislator Fernando Cheung said he believes the police intentionally let the protesters continue smashing the glass doors and break into the building so that the protesters could be seen as a violent group. A group of protesters had started congregating around the building at roughly 1 p.m., charging at the building with road signs, corrugated iron sheets, and pieces of scaffolding.
“This is a trap. The protesters…who were storming Legco could have been dispersed easily by the police,” Cheung said, according to RTHK. “They were not a large number, we’re talking about probably a few hundred people, and those who were actually taking action were even smaller in number, and yet the police did not do anything.”
“They wanted this to happen. They wanted the public to see this,” Cheung added.
Update: July 1, 11:40 p.m. HKT
Hong Kong Police Warns Protesters It Will Start Clearing Crowds at Legislature Building
In a video published on the Hong Kong police force’s official Facebook page at 10:21 p.m. local time, it announced that the protesters who broke into the legislature building were “rioters” that deserved the “most severe condemnation.” An unnamed police spokesman spoke in the video, saying that officers were to shortly arrive at the scene and start “clearing the field.”
“If there is any obstruction or resistance, the police will employ appropriate forces,” the spokesman said. He urged protesters to swiftly leave the area around the legislature building.
Organizers of Hong Kong’s annual march on July 1 said that over 550,000 people took part, breaking the record in 2014 when 510,000 Hongkongers came out to demand universal suffrage in electing the city’s top official.
The Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute (HKPORI) gave different estimates. It said at least 374,000 was marching through the Arsenal Street during the peak.
A spokesperson for the Hong Kong government has responded with strong words to a group of protesters who broke into the legislature building by smashing glass doors earlier in the evening.
“Some radical protesters stormed the Legislative Council Complex with extreme violence. These protesters seriously jeopardized the safety of police officers and members of the public. Such violent acts are unacceptable to society,” according to a statement.
“Hong Kong is a society that respects the rule of law, and has never tolerated violence. Protesters who resort to violence must stop their acts immediately,” the unnamed spokesperson said in an earlier statement, adding that the police will “take appropriate enforcement action to protect public order and safety.” The government had sent out a red alert asking everyone to leave the building.
The city’s Hospital Authority said so far 43 people have been injured in clashes with the police. 37 have since been discharged from the hospital. At least two are still being treated.
Crowds of people, many of them dressed in black, began to fill Victoria Park shortly before 3 p.m. local time.
The march set out at around 3 p.m. Participants were shouting “Carrie Lam step down, Withdraw the evil law.”
A Hongkonger surnamed Leung who is in the education sector told local media RTHK that he was joining the march with his wife and son. He said he had decided to come because he is worried about the impact of the bill on his rights.
He added that he also disagrees with how Hong Kong police had reacted with force against protesters on June 12.