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china and hong kong

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Hundreds of protesters have occupied Hong Kong’s parliament building for hours after breaking away from a protest on the anniversary of the state’s transfer of sovereignty to China from Britain.

Police firing tear gas have moved in to evict protesters from the Legislative Council (LegCo) building.

At midnight, local time, hundreds of police charged towards the building after warning protesters to clear it.

The incident follows weeks of unrest in Hong Kong over a controversial extradition law.

Hundreds of thousands took part in the earlier protest – the latest rally against a proposed law that critics fear could be used to extradite political dissidents to mainland China.

Dozens of demonstrators smashed their way through the glass facade of LegCo. They were joined inside by hundreds more after police vacated the building during the evening.

Hong Kong protests: Schools and banks closed as demonstrators block downtown

Hong Kong clashes near government offices

Image source AFP

Inside the building, protesters defaced the emblem of Hong Kong in the central chamber, raised the old British colonial flag, spray-painted messages across the walls, and shattered furniture.

They clad in plastic helmets and brandishing umbrellas retreated from a baton charge by riot police, who quickly overcame the makeshift barriers in front of the building.

Inside, diehard demonstrators were pulled forcibly outside by their fellow occupants in an attempt to completely clear the building.

Democratic lawmakers Ted Hui and Roy Kwong stood in front of police asking them to allow protesters time to leave the area, the South China Morning Post reported.

Within an hour, the streets around the parliament building were clear of everyone except the media and police.

However, no arrests have yet been reported.

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China’s President Xi Jinping is making his first visit to Hong Kong as leader.

His visit marks 20 years since Hong Kong was handed back to China by Britain.

The highly symbolic visit comes amid an increasingly tense political climate.

Official celebrations are planned, as well as large protests from pro-democracy and pro-Beijing camps.

Several well-known activists were arrested on the eve of Xi Jinping’s arrival.

Carrie Lam Becomes Hong Kong’s First Female Chief Executive

The group, which included student leader Joshua Wong, had staged a protest at an iconic sculpture symbolizing the handover.

Image source Reuters

The golden sculpture of a bauhinia flower – Hong Kong’s emblem – by the city’s harbor was a gift from China.

President Xi Jinping arrived for the three-day visit with his wife Peng Liyuan at Hong Kong’s main Chek Lap Kok airport. The couple was welcomed by a marching band and children waving flags.

China to stop issuing multiple entry Hong Kong visas

In a brief speech on the tarmac, President Xi said Hong Kong was “always in my heart”.

Beijing’s central government “has always been a strong backer of Hong Kong” and “will, as always, support Hong Kong’s economic development and improvement of people’s lives”.

President Xi also said Beijing was “willing to work with all sectors of Hong Kong’s society in maintaining Hong Kong’s extraordinary journey these past 20 years”, and would “ensure ‘one country, two systems’ will continue with stability”.

Hong Kong was handed back from British to Chinese rule in 1997.

Beijing agreed to govern it under “one country, two systems”, granting the city its own legal system, limited democracy with multiple political parties, and rights like freedom of assembly and free speech.

However, China’s growing influence has been met with unease and concerns that the mainland could undermine Hong Kong’s more politically liberal traditions.

Activists have been campaigning for years for Hong Kong to have more political freedom.