Asia-Pacific

Hong Kong’s leader condemns anti-government protesters

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Riot police in Hong Kong have used tear gas to disperse protesters who flooded the financial district and broke into the Legislative Council building.

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam has responded to the chaos in the city – with a 4am emergency press conference.

Ms Lam condemned what she called extremely violent behaviour after thousands of protesters stormed a government complex.

“The extreme use of violence and vandalism from the protesters who stormed into the Legislative Council building. This is something we should seriously condemn,” she said.

“Nothing is more important than the rule of law in Hong Kong.”

Many of the protesters want Ms Lam to resign for ignoring them - and for failing to withdraw the controversial extradition bill.

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Hong Kong leader speaks after police clear out protesters
Hong Kong leader speaks after police clear out protesters

“We have explained and elaborated by suspending the bill. The bill will expire or die in July 2020, when the current Legislative Council term expires.”

Hong Kong police have fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters, including some who stormed the legislature on the anniversary of the city's 1997 return to Chinese rule.

Police arrived by bus and ran into position as about a thousand protesters gathered around the Legislative Council building in the heart of the former British colony's financial district on Monday evening.

Police fired several rounds of tear gas as protesters held up umbrellas to protect themselves or fled.

Plumes of smoke billowed across major thoroughfares and in between some of the world's tallest skyscrapers.

Protesters had carried road signs, others corrugated iron sheets and pieces of scaffolding, as they barged into the council building.

Some sat at legislators' desks, checking their phones, while others scrawled "anti-extradition" on chamber walls.

Other graffiti called for Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam to step down, while pictures of some lawmakers were defaced.

"HK Is Not China" was painted in black on a white pillar.

The government called for an immediate end to the violence, saying it had stopped all work on extradition bill amendments and that the legislation would automatically lapse in July next year.

The Legislative Council Secretariat released a statement cancelling business for Tuesday.

The central government offices said they would close on Tuesday "owing to security consideration", while all guided tours to the Legislative Council complex were suspended until further notice.

Riot police in helmets and carrying batons earlier fired pepper spray as the stand-off continued into the sweltering heat of the evening.

The protesters, some with cling film wrapped around their arms to protect them from tear gas, once again paralysed parts of the Asian financial hub as they occupied roads after blocking them off with metal barriers.

Lam suspended the extradition bill on June 15 after some of the largest and most violent protests in the city in decades but stopped short of protesters' demands to scrap it.

The Beijing-backed leader is now clinging on to her job at a time of an unprecedented backlash against the government, which poses the greatest popular challenge to Chinese leader Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012.

Opponents of the extradition bill, which would allow people to be sent to mainland China for trial in courts controlled by the Communist Party, fear it is a threat to Hong Kong's much-cherished rule of law.

Hong Kong returned to China under a "one country, two systems" formula that allows freedoms not enjoyed in mainland China, including the freedom to protest and an independent judiciary.

China has been angered by criticism from Western capitals, including Washington and London, about the legislation.

Beijing said on Monday that Britain had no responsibility for Hong Kong any more and was opposed to its "gesticulating" about the territory.

The EU on Monday called for restraint and dialogue to find a way forward.

Tens of thousands marched in temperatures of around 33C from Victoria Park in an annual rally.

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