HONG KONG – Beijing condemned on Tuesday protesters who stormed Hong Kong’s Legislative Council and asked local authorities to restore social order as the legislature’s president announced the building will remain closed for at least two weeks due to serious damage.
During the Monday commemorations of the anniversary of the United Kingdom’s handover of Hong Kong to China, a splinter group of protesters broke away from a peaceful demonstration and stormed the LegCo building, vandalizing the interior.
In a statement, a Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the State Council spokesperson described the incident as extremely violent, and Beijing expressed strong support to the Hong Kong government and local police in handling the incident in accordance with the law and investigating criminal responsibility of offenders.
The Office added that Monday’s incident infringes on Hong Kong’s rule of law, undermines its social order as well as its fundamental interests, and called it a blatant challenge to the “one country, two systems” principle, under which the city enjoys autonomy in some spheres.
The agency’s spokesperson reiterated China’s support to Hong Kong’s leaders and police to perform their duties and restore social order as soon as possible, and safeguard the personal safety and property of citizens as well as the prosperity and stability of the city.
After visiting the LegCo headquarters on Tuesday, its president Andrew Leung told reporters parliament would be closed for at least two weeks, that the electrical and fire safety systems of the building had been damaged and that repairs would take time.
The closure means lawmakers will not meet again until the summer is over, as the current session of parliament ends mid-July.
Leung said that it was not feasible to hold council meetings at other venues.
He said he and many others in Hong Kong were “sad” about the incidents of Monday night and urged people to find a way forward in a “reasonable” manner.
The president condemned “violent actions” by protesters and said the LegCo premises resembled a big “crime scene.”
At a 4:00 am press conference, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam called the incident an “extreme use of violence and vandalism.”
“This is something that we should seriously condemn, because nothing is more important than the rule of law in Hong Kong,” she added.
An EFE reporter witnessed on Tuesday morning cleaning teams busy clearing debris scattered around parliament and nearby Tamar Park.
Piles of umbrellas, helmets, posters, broken barricades, stones, rails and massive iron rods – used by protesters as battering rams to break open the glass doors of the building – could be seen lying on the streets.
As well as widespread vandalism inside parliament, the building’s outside walls were also covered in graffiti, mainly targeting the divisive extradition bill, the government of Lam and alleged Beijing interference.
Both pro-China and pro-democracy lawmakers visited the legislature building on Tuesday to inspect the damage in person.
Young activist and Umbrella Revolution leader Joshua Wong also visited parliament, having been released recently after spending over one month in prison for his participation in the 2014 protests, which demanded more democratic rights and universal suffrage in the city.
Wong, an aide to opposition lawmaker Au Nok-hin, complained that the police did not allow him to enter the building, even though the teams of pro-Beijing lawmakers had been allowed to pass.
A protest on the occasion of the anniversary of the transfer of Hong Kong’s sovereignty to China took an unprecedented turn on Tuesday when hundreds of young protesters stormed into the parliament and occupied it without resistance from police.
The protesters abandoned the building in the early morning after a three-hour long occupation during which they vandalized the legislative headquarters and when the police used tear gas and announced a sweep of the building.