Hong Kong Erupts Again In Massive Protests, Chinese Leadership Grapples With The Greatest Challenge To Its Authority In YearsActivists hold banners and placards as they take part in an annual protest march on China’s national day in Hong Kong. (ISAAC LAWRENCE/AFP/Getty Images)

In a clear signal political crisis that has engulfed Asia’s premier financial centre has further escalated, angry demonstrators stormed Hong Kong’s Legislative Council building, vandalised it and occupied the complex for several hours on Monday(Jul 1), South China Morning Post reported.

The protests erupted on a day that marked the 22nd anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule. At least 13 injured police officers were taken to hospital after they were hit with an unidentified liquid by the angry protesters.

Over the last three weeks, Hong Kong has witnessed wave of demonstrations against an attempt by the government to introduce a bill which allows the extradition of criminal suspects from Hong Kong to Mainland China. China relented to the protests by suspending the bill but the protesters are persisting with their demands that includes complete withdrawal of the proposed legislation, the resignation of Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, and scrapping police charges against protesters arrested in previous protests.

A massive demonstration was staged on Monday (the anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule) to demand more autonomy from China. An estimated half million people joined the protests. When the demonstrators proceeded towards convention center where authorities were celebrating the anniversary, police resorted to use of batons and pepper spray to push back the crowd.

Angered by the police's response, few hundred protesters broke off from the peaceful main march and attacked the legislative building and occupied it for about three hours.

While earlier reports suggested that the local police exited the building before the protesters entered, the riot police later battled hundreds of protesters near the venue and mounted an operation to cleared the streets. Local television reports confirmed that police managed to regain control of the building with no protesters in sight.

The wave of protests have plunged Hong Kong in to its deepest political crisis since the handover of the island to China, with much of the fury directed against the city’s chief executive Carie Lam, who has turned in to a much despised figure among the protesters.

Carie Lam on her part delivered a six-minute speech in which she sounded reconciliatory and focused on the lessons she would learnt from the political crisis that has engulfed her administration as a result of the controversial bill. She also pledged to reform government and listen to the people. Lam had earlier apologised on June 18 for piloting the controversial legislation,

The series of protests in Hong Kong is likely to embolden mainland Chinese to tighten its control over Hong Kong.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has tried to distance himself from the movement until now, is expected to announce a tough crackdown on the protesters to reassert his credentials as a ‘strong’ leader’.

Even as US State Department spokeswoman urged all sides to refrain from violence and US President Donald Trump told reporters that the unrest in Hong Kong was “very sad”, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang asserted that happenings in Hong Kong affairs was purely China’s internal affairs, and no foreign country has the right to intervene.

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