Protesters smash glass doors of the Hong Kong parliament on July 1, the 22nd anniversary of the city's handover from Britain to China. Photo: AFP / Anthony Wallace

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has condemned protesters who stormed the Legislative Council on Monday night after they forced their way into the complex by smashing the building’s glass entrances.

The Hong Kong leader held a press briefing at 4am on Tuesday at police headquarters and slammed “the extreme use of violence and vandalism” by the protesters. She accused them of being “violent and lawless” and of undermining the rule of law.

Lam told her first meeting with the media in two weeks that the protesters were separated into two groups. “One is a regular march on July 1. Regardless of the number of participants in the march, the march was peaceful and generally orderly, and this fully reflects the inclusiveness of Hong Kong society and the core values we attach to peace and order.”

The second scene, she said, “saddened and shocked a lot of people” because of the use of violence and vandalism by protesters who stormed into the Legislative Council (LegCo) building. “This is something that we should seriously condemn because nothing is more important than the rule of law in Hong Kong.”

She said she hoped society would “return to normal” as soon as possible.

Police fire tear gas at protesters near the city parliament early on July 2 to regain control of the building after protesters ransacked the assembly. Photo: AFP / Anthony Wallace

Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, Secretary for Security John Li Ka-chiu and Police Commissioner Stephen Lo Wai-chung appeared at the press conference, but not Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah.

Police left LegCo building

Lam’s criticism came after a group of protesters besieged the city’s parliament before breaking into the building after all police originally stationed inside the building left and did not try to defend it.

Protesters leave the main chamber of the government headquarters early on July 2, 2019, after they stormed into the building hours before. Photo: AFP / Anthony Wallace

About three million of Hong Kong’s 7.8 million residents have taken to the streets over the past couple of weeks to demand that the government permanently shelve the extradition bill, as well as drop “rioting” charges against protesters arrested during clashes with police on June 12, and for Lam to resign.

Lam has not responded to any of the demands. She also turned down an urgent meeting with the pro-democracy camp on Monday when the protesters tried to break into the premises.

Chief executive Carrie Lam. Photo: RTHK

During the 30-minute media briefing, Lam said “it was not true to say the government had not responded” to the protesters’ demands. She said she had “good reason” not to react to all demands, but did not elaborate. She said again that controversial changes to the extradition bill had been suspended and would expire next year.

Three people – a man and two women – have reportedly committed suicide by jumping from heights since the highly contentious bill was introduced. The three allegedly felt desperate about the bill and the future of Hong Kong.

Lam failed to respond when she was asked if she had listened to younger people’s voices or turned a blind eye to her responsibility to young people when some had chosen to take their own lives in opposition to the extradition bill.

‘Looking for democracy’

US President Donald Trump said on Monday the protesters in Hong Kong who stormed LegCo were “looking for democracy”, AFP reported.

Trump told reporters at the White House that “I think most people want democracy. Unfortunately, some governments don’t want democracy. That’s what it’s all about. It’s all about democracy. There’s nothing better.”

Earlier, Trump said the unrest in Hong Kong was “very sad.” His remarks came as the State Department urged all sides in Hong Kong to avoid violence.

“Hong Kong’s success is predicated on its rule of law and respect for fundamental freedoms, including freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly,” a spokesperson said.

UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “When I look at those terrible scenes in Hong Kong, my heart goes out to people who do have to fight for their freedoms and who are worried they could lose a very precious way of life. I don’t support violence in any circumstances but I understand their worries about changes that are happening in Hong Kong,” the Telegraph reported.

Britain ‘interfering’

The Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the State Council and the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government issued statements separately to seriously condemn the storming of the LegCo. Both said they would fully support the government and police in arresting those involved.

The China Daily said the unrest in Hong Kong came from youths “who feel unable to benefit from the SAR [Self-Administered Region]’s development and excluded from its decision-making process”. But it said protesters were “using these grievances and disturbances as a means to serve their own agendas and put pressure on Beijing”.

“But that does not mean there will be any weakening of the ‘one country, two systems’ framework that was established to smooth the return of Hong Kong to the motherland.

“China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman once again felt compelled to chide Britain on Monday for ‘flagrantly interfering’ in Hong Kong matters and reminding it, and other countries, that the SAR’s affairs are purely China’s concern.”

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