Chief Executive Carrie Lam condemned anti-extradition protesters for using “violent means” in their day-long siege of the Legislative Council yesterday, adding she was saddened and shocked by the vandalism and violence on display.
Lam appeared with Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung, Secretary for Security John Lee, and Police Commissioner Stephen Lo at a highly unusual 4am press conference, saying that two different styles of protest were on view yesterday.
The first, a march that began at Victoria Park and reportedly drew some 550,000 participants, was peacefully and rationally carried out, which “fully reflects the inclusiveness of Hong Kong society”, Lam said. The second one, meanwhile, involved violence and vandalism by protesters who stormed into the Legislative Council building causing extensive damage, which “saddens and shocks a lot of people” and jeopardized the rule of law in Hong Kong, she continued.
Police had largely stood aside throughout the day, allowing protesters to deface the LegCo, and even ultimately storm it, before moving in hours later, prompting accusations online that they had laid a “trap” for protesters.
Asked why police had allowed the invasion of LegCo to happen in the first place, Police Commissioner Lo said the force had defended the LegCo complex for eight hours, but as some of the protesters were tampering with the electricity box, fearing a blackout, the police were forced to retreat.
He also added that two police officers were sickened by “toxic powder” earlier in the day and were hospitalized. Fearing that there would be more “smoke attacks,” police decided to “temporarily retreat” from the LegCo, RTHK reports.
The substance was later found to be P-phenylenediamine, prolonged exposure to which can cause skin redness and swelling, and shortness of breath.
Thirteen other officers, meanwhile, were injured when protesters splashed an unknown liquid on them yesterday.
Lam, meanwhile, maintained that Hong Kong is a society that is inclusive, diverse, and advocates the rule of law, and said she hoped the society will “return to normal” soon.
Responding to Lam’s press briefing this morning, pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong repeated calls for Lam to resign, withdraw the controversial extradition bill, not to prosecute activists arrested in relation to the June 12 protests, and to investigate the use of police force on protesters.
Wong, who’s an assistant to pro-democracy lawmaker Au Nok-hin, was trying to enter LegCo with his staff pass in order to try and get his laptop and other belongings.
— Richard Pyne (@richardjpyne) July 2, 2019
Speaking outside LegCo this morning, he said it was “good timing” to blame the young protesters who stormed into the legislature after their demands were left unmet after weeks of protests.
“I understand people in Hong Kong or around the world might not 100 percent agree, or disagree, on all of the behaviour of protesters. But when more than 25 percent of the population – more than two million people – joined the rally, but all of their requests have been ignored, is there any way out?”