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Hong Kong is still divided over the actions of a relatively small group of protesters who decided to storm the legislature during the ongoing Hong Kong protests.
Monday, July 1st, the anniversary of Hong Kong’s 1997 handover to China following British colonial rule, saw hundreds of thousands take to the streets to protest the Hong Kong Legislative Council’s decision to allow citizens to be extradited and tried in Chinese courts.
This is a big deal because Hong Kong, despite having its sovereignty returned to China, has maintained its position as a special administrative region, mostly governing itself. The Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019 jeopardizes that status.
“When the former British colony was handed back in 1997, China to that Hong Kong could maintain its freedoms and way of life for the next 50 years” and it has only been 22, Julia Hollingsworth writes.
While the main protest of more than half a million people marching through Hong Kong was mostly peaceful, hundreds had other ideas and set their sights on the legislature to pursue more anarchist tactics.
Throughout the day and into the night, this smaller group of protesters steadily made their way into the legislative building, smashing glass walls and forcing open the metal security curtains, all the while pushing police back, who eventually were overcome.
An even smaller group of these protesters chose to then stay overnight, committing acts of vandalism and defacement, spray-painting anti-government slogans, destroying security equipment, and trying to cause as much financial damage as possible.
“At almost every turn, slogans had been spray-painted on the walls in Chinese and English. “Destroy the Chinese Communist Party,” read one. “Hong Kong is not China” said another,” CTV reports.
Most of these protesters have been revealed to be students in their early twenties, some even being teenagers, and expressed deep concerns over what it will mean to be governed by China, again, according to anonymous interviews given to the Associated Press.
“In China … you just speak one thing wrong, you will be put in jail,” 19-year-old Daisy Chan said. “Can you imagine in 28 years, what will Hong Kong be? Nobody knows.”
“There’s not much hope left in Hong Kong,” another named Nick (24) said. “We just want a small place as our home, but we can’t afford it. We’re desperate.”
“I can’t trust the government,” he added. “They give whatever China wants.”
So far, at least 13 have been arrested following the Monday and Tuesday protests, including one of the protesters connected to the breaking in to and vandalism of the legislative building.
However, many in Hong Kong remain divided over the more violent tactics displayed at the legislature.
Xiang Zhang, vice-chancellor of Hong Kong University, condemned their actions in a recent statement:
“I am disheartened by the violence that occurred in the Legislative Council building and would like to condemn such destructive acts,” he said in a statement. “In the face of present difficulties, I firmly believe that people with different viewpoints can coexist in a state of civility, and that the rift in the society could be healed if all parties are able to reach out and engage in constructive dialogues.”
Conversely, many others have condoned the actions, claiming that the protesters achieved their goal of waking people up to the ineffectual nature of merely marching on the streets.
Which path future protests will follow, peaceful of otherwise, remains uncertain.