Hong Kong marks anniversary of Chinese rule with protests

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Protesters tried to smash into Hong Kong’s legislature ahead of a pro-democracy rally that is expected to draw hundreds of thousands. Tensions are running high over a controversial bill to allow extraditions to China.

Hundreds of protesters attempted to break into Hong Kong’s legislature on Monday, in demonstrations coinciding with the anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule on July 1, 1997.

Clutching umbrellas, a group of demonstrators used a metal cart to ram through the glass doors of the Legislative Council building. Police responded by firing pepper spray and beating some people with batons.

The incident came as thousands of Hong Kong residents blocked off roads outside the government complex. Even more people are expected to take part in an annual rally in the afternoon.

The anniversary protests come in the wake of huge demonstrations that drew more than a million people to the streets against a bill that sought to allow extraditions to the Chinese mainland.

As a result, the government postponed debate on the legislation, but protest leaders still want the bill formally withdrawn and for embattled Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam to resign.

Clashes with police

Monday’s pro-democracy march was due to start in the afternoon at Victoria Park on Hong Kong Island and end at government offices near the heart of the financial center.

The anniversary is considered a public holiday, so financial markets and most businesses are closed on this day.

Earlier on Monday morning, small groups of masked protesters, most of them young, took control of three of the cities main streets, deploying metal and plastic barriers to block the way. Clashes with riot police were reported in the Admiralty and Wanchai districts of the city.

Lam makes public appearance

The morning disturbances occurred shortly before a government flag-raising ceremony to mark the 22nd anniversary of the city’s handover.

The event was officiated by Carrie Lam, who had not been seen in public in more than 10 days. She gave a speech that struck a conciliatory tone.

“What happened in recent months has caused conflicts and disputes between the government and residents,” Lam said.

“It has made me fully understand that as a politician, I need to be aware and accurately grasp the feelings of the people,” she said.

The July 1 anniversary has been marred by deepening dissatisfaction among many residents about what many see as increasing meddling by China in Hong Kong and the erosion of freedoms.

A former British colony, Hong Kong was returned to China under the “one country, two systems” rule. The formula allows for freedom of protest and lets the autonomous region have an independent judiciary, neither of which is accepted in China.

rs, jcg/aw (AFP, Reuters, AP)

DW

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