While protesters in Hong Kong smashed their way into the city’s parliament building and daubed anti-Chinese slogans on its walls, they were apparently polite enough to pay for drinks and protect “cultural artifacts” inside.
A mass of demonstrators used a metal trolley to breach the Hong Kong Legislative Council building after a standoff with riot police on Monday afternoon. Once inside, they occupied the main debating chamber, spray-painting anti-Chinese graffiti on the walls and hanging a British colonial flag – a visual thumb on the nose to Beijing.
However, according to a series of viral pictures circulating online, the seething masses deliberately avoided damaging books and antiquities within the building. The unverified pictures apparently show signs hung by the protesters warning that “cultural objects should be preserved.” Near the Legislative Council library, barricades were put up, and another sign read “Preserve books. Don’t destroy.”
In the building’s canteen, more signs cautioned against stealing, reminding the occupiers “We’re not thieves.” Thirsty protesters even appeared to leave money behind to pay for drinks they took from a fridge.
Police later swept through the building, clearing out any protesters who remained inside. As such, it is impossible to verify the pictures’ authenticity. An impromptu honesty-bucket would not be unusual though, as protesters outside also banded together to clean up the mess they created hours earlier.
Though Twitter fawned over the protesters’ civic-mindedness, there were reports of violence in the crowd. Video shot by ABC News’ Steve Wang earlier on Monday morning showed a group of demonstrators beating up a man they claimed was taking photos of them.
Hong Kong has been consumed by rallies and protests for three weeks, as citizens rage against a controversial extradition bill that recently passed through parliament. The law would improve extradition channels between Hong Kong and mainland China, but many in the city argue it gives too much authority to Beijing.
The city administration has since suspended the bill indefinitely, but the protesters are now demanding the resignation of Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, as well as the release of all demonstrators detained, and an investigation into allegations of police brutality.