On Monday night, Hong Kong protesters broke into their parliamentary building, occupying the main chamber of the Legislative Council and vandalizing property. As the protesters entered the building, police initially retreated to avoid confrontation and give the demonstrators the run of the building.
For a few hours, protesters defaced portraits of lawmakers and spray-painted pro-democracy phrases in the chamber before being evicted by security forces.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Beijing condemned the violent acts that saw several hundred protesters breaking through glass and metal shutters to enter the building; Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam supported his statement by saying the protests were an “extreme use of violence.”
The graffiti was vast and profound, but the messages left behind express a great deal about the changing characteristics of these protests.
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The Emblem’s Vandalism
On the central wall of the main chamber sits Hong Kong’s emblem. It reads “Hong Kong” in English, but in Chinese, it says: “The Regional Emblem of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China”.
Protesters spray-painted over the emblem, covering the portion which read “People’s Republic of China”, only leaving Hong Kong’s section on the emblem unscathed.
This act of vandalism portrays the demonstrators’ eagerness to keep Hong Kong autonomous from mainland China, saving its freedoms, judicial independence, and its own legislature and economic system.
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The Colonial-era Hong Kong Flag
Inside the Legislative Council building, protesters draped a Hong Kong colonial-era flag over a podium.
The message serves as a tribute to Hong Kong’s history as a former colony to British rule, calling on its former colonizers to confront China regarding the recent events. For 156 years, Hong Kong existed as a British colony until it was formally handed back to China in 1997; yesterday was the 22nd-anniversary celebrating independence from British rule.
While some believe the flag is a desire to return to British rule, Hong Kong journalist Alan Wong refutes the belief.
“Whatever the British Hong Kong flag means today, Beijing wouldn’t be pleased to see it,” said the Inkstone editor. “And that might have been the point of putting it in front of the world’s cameras.”
“Hong Kong’s Sunflower”
Protestors also spray-painted “Hong Kong’s sunflower” on the wall in black, referring to the Sunflower Movement protests which occurred in Taiwan in 2014. During that time, students and activists in Taiwan occupied Taiwan’s parliament to stand against Beijing’s growing influence over Taiwan.
Hong Kong protesters believe the same is happening to their region right now.
“Peaceful Marches Did Not Work”
A demonstrator spray-painted a slogan on a column inside the Legislative Council building which read, “It was you who told me peaceful marches did not work.” This message was directed towards Carrie Lam, who despite witnessing the massive turnouts for the recent protests, refused to listen to her citizens.
Starting out peacefully demonstrating, Hong Kong citizens are growing anxious that efforts in expressing their voices through civil means remain unheard; they are thus resorting to violent methods as depicted last night.
Spray-painted on a computer screen inside the Legislative Council building reads the Chinese characters for “freedom” to show people in Hong Kong are protesting to preserve their region’s unique sense of liberty, a characteristic absent from the mainland.
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China promised Hong Kong it would be able to preserve its freedoms until 2047, after the British handover in 1997; after 22 years of autonomy, many in Hong Kong believe they cannot live without those rights.
Fox News’ Morgan Cheung and the Associated Press contributed to this report.