Questions Arise in Hong Kong: Did Police Allow Protesters to Storm the Legislature?

By Penny Zhou

Alongside the peaceful mass protest in Hong Kong on July 1, a small group of young protesters broke into the legislature building leaving a trail of damage behind them. Experts are now questioning exactly what happened.

Hong Kong police on July 3 announced the arrest of eight people. These individuals are suspected of disclosing information online and making threats against police officers, said police.

“And the operation is ongoing,” Superintendent of the Hong Kong Police’s Technology Crime Division, Swalikh Mohammed, said in a press conference. “We may actually arrest more people in the near future.”

The mass protest on July 1, the anniversary of China’s takeover of Hong Kong, were mostly peaceful except at the legislative council building where one group of protesters started to smash the glass walls in the afternoon, intent on breaking in to make a statement and claim the council floor.

The smashing and advances on the building lasted until around 9 p.m., when the police guarding the building suddenly withdrew from their positions to allow the protesters to enter the chambers and graffiti parts of the building. Some government computers were also destroyed.

Around midnight, the police came back and fired multiple rounds of tear gas to disperse the protesters.

Hong Kong Police Commissioner Stephen Lo said they withdrew due to darkness, because it was difficult and dangerous to operate without light.

But some experts have called their tactics uncommon and “suspect.”

A former commander of the Royal Hong Kong Police told Reuters that “few world governments” would have taken the same approach.

Another counter-terrorism expert said: “I can’t think of any tactical reason for doing this. It is just staggering.”

Hong Kong pro-democracy leader Martin Lee suspect the authorities purposely allowed Monday’s protest to take place.

An NTD reporter who was inside the building on Monday heard protesters reminding each other to just occupy but not damage the inside of the building.

“We did not harm anyone. We are really out of choices,” Zhang, a protester who entered the legislative council on Monday night, told NTD. “We have tried every single peaceful, rational, non-violent way, but the government is still not responding to our demands.”

Joshua Wong, who was the public face of the 2014 Hong Kong pro-democracy protests known as the Umbrella Movement, expressed similar sentiment in a threat on Twitter.

Some Hong Kong lawyers concerned with government retaliation are posting to Facebook, reminding protesters of their legal rights if arrested.

Reuters contributed to this report.