HONG KONG — Hundreds of protesters in Hong Kong swarm into the legislature’s main building today, tearing down portraits of legislative leaders and spray-painting pro-democracy slogans on the walls of the main chamber.
The sharp escalation in tactics comes on the anniversary of the former British colony’s return to China, a city holiday, and reflects mounting frustration with Hong Kong’s leader for not responding to protesters’ demands after several weeks of demonstrations.
The protesters whacked away at thick glass windows until they shattered and broke and pried open steel security gates and propped them open with barricades to get inside. Police in riot gear retreated as the protesters entered about 9 p.m., avoiding a confrontation and giving them the run of the building.
They stood on lawmakers’ desks in the main legislative chamber, painted over the territory’s emblem high up on a wooden wall and wrote slogans calling for a democratic election of the city’s leader and denouncing now-suspended extradition legislation that sparked the protests. Many wore yellow and white helmets, face masks and the black T-shirts that have become their uniform.
Police announces about 10:30 p.m. that they will clear the area, asking protesters to leave and warning they will use “appropriate force” if they encounter resistance.
Hong Kong has been wracked by weeks of protests over a government attempt to change extradition laws to allow suspects to be sent to China to face trial. The proposed legislation, on which debate has been suspended indefinitely, increased fears of eroding freedoms in the territory, which Britain returned to China on July 1, 1997.