John Lee sworn in as Hong Kong’s new leader

Protesters push a metal cart through a window of the Legislative Council building during a protest in Hong Kong, Monday, July 1, 2019. (Eduardo Leal/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Before the pandemic and the enactment of the National Security Law in 2020, July 1 – the anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover from British to Chinese rule – was traditionally marked by pro-democracy marches.

On this day three years ago, turnout was spurred by anger over a bill that would have allowed the city to be extradited to China, sending hundreds of thousands of Hong Kongers down in the streets, eventually forcing the government to suspend the bill.

Critics feared the law could be used to grab government critics and send them across the border to stand trial in a system with a 99% conviction rate and a history of political prosecution.

Before the start of the main march on July 1, 2019, a small breakaway group of protesters – many of whom were teenagers and in their twenties and wore masks, helmets and other protective gear – surrounded the Legislative Council complex.

Using makeshift rams and metal bars to smash reinforced glass, the band members forced their way into LegCo, where they daubed anti-extradition slogans on the walls, smashed the interior and draped the former colonial flag of the territory on the center of the main chamber. podium.

Police failed to act as protesters attacked the building or stormed inside, and hundreds of people were able to remain in the legislature for up to three hours, before the announcement of a clearance operation imminent does not bring them back to the streets.

Minutes after protesters made the collective decision to exit the building, police fired tear gas and used baton charges to disperse the crowd.

The next day, Then-Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam condemned the protesters’ actions, saying they had used « extreme violence and vandalism ».

The reaction of the Chinese government has been equally critical. A spokesperson for the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office said the « radical » protests had been an « open challenge » to the city’s system of governance.

« This type of serious illegal action undermines the rule of law and social order in Hong Kong and harms the fundamental interests of Hong Kong, » the statement said, adding that Beijing fully supports the police force of the Hong Kong. town.

How it looks today: The LegCo storming marked a turning point in the protest movement and China’s view of it. Exactly a year later, Beijing bypassed the city’s legislature to impose the National Security Law on the city, which critics say was used to crush the city’s opposition movement, overhaul its electoral system , silence its outspoken media and cripple its once vibrant civil system. society.

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