Protesters storm Hong Kong Legislative Council building


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Police officers stand guard behind the cracked glass wall of the Legislative Council after protesters try to break into in Hong Kong on Monday, July 1, 2019
(AP Photo/Vincent Yu)Police officers stand guard behind the cracked glass wall of the Legislative Council after protesters try to break into in Hong Kong on Monday, July 1, 2019

Hong Kong demonstrators clash with police over controversial extradition bill.

Anti-government protesters laid siege to Hong Kong's parliament on Monday as the territory marked its China handover anniversary, smashing windows, battling police armed with pepper spray and plunging the city further into crisis.

The angry scenes escalated tensions in the financial hub which has been rocked by three weeks of historic demonstrations against a hugely unpopular bill that would allow extraditions to the Chinese mainland.

Tens of thousands of democracy activists staged another large, peaceful march through the city on Monday afternoon, calling for the city's pro-Beijing leader to step down and reverse what they see as years of sliding freedoms.

But that rally was overshadowed by small groups of mainly young, masked protesters who seized roads and tried to break into the legislature, sparking renewed clashes with police after two weeks of relative calm.

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Under blazing summer skies the young demonstrators made multiple attempts to smash into the building, using a metal cart as a battering ram and wielding steel poles to prize open gaps in the reinforced windows. 

Riot police inside the building wore gas masks as they squirted pepper spray at protesters, who unfurled umbrellas to shield themselves.

The anti-government demonstrators eventually managed to prise open a hole in the reinforced glass at the main entrance. But police retreated behind heavy metal shutters that locked down the rest of the building.

"We know that this is breaking the law, but we have no choice," a 24-year-old protester surnamed Cheung told AFP. 

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See more on Hong Kong demonstrations here. 

Hong Kong has seen massive protests over the past several weeks with demonstrators aiming their anger and frustration at Hong Kong’s Beijing-backed leader Carrie Lam, demanding her immediate resignation.

Hong Kong residents have expressed mounting concerns over the now-suspended extradition bill, citing fears Beijing would use the legislation to undermine Hong Kong’s much-cherished rule of law and entangle people in China's opaque and politicized court system. 

Suspending the bill, however, has done little quell public anger and rallies continue to draw millions of demonstrators. 

Last month, Lam apologized for the political crisis embroiling the semi-autonomous territory, but has so far refused to resign from office. 

The protests are the most serious challenge posed to Chinese leader Xi Jinping since taking over the presidency in 2012.

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