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Protesters in Hong Kong Trying to Break into the Legislative Council Building; Police Are Calm but in Full Alert; Protesters Try to Storm Hong Kong Legislative Building. Aired 3-4a ET
Aired July 1, 2019 - 03:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[03:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: The breaking news we're following this hour, anger boiling over in Hong Kong, and it is all playing out live in these images you see right now. This scene is outside the legislative council building.
Protesters there are trying to break into that building they're trying to smash objects through the glass doors there. And they are in a standoff with riot police who are on the other side of the glass there. Those police have warned that they are ready, they will respond if protesters break through the glass and into the building.
Welcome to viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm George Howell.
ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Rosemary Church.
All this coming as a planned anti-government march is about to begin. The public outcry against the controversial extradition bill has grown louder and the government has shelved it, but not completely scrapped it, and that is why these protesters are out there in front of this parliamentary building.
So, let's turn oh our Anna Coren. She is following all of these developments for us live from Hong Kong. And Anna, as we've been covering this, the protesters keep ramming that reinforced glass door with that steel framed trolley, and they appear to have actually penetrated a hole at least there, which has gotten the riot police inside very edgy, indeed. So, they seem to be getting close to their goal.
ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they certainly do, Rosemary. We're looking at those live pictures with you. They have been ramming this trolley, this steel cage for almost an hour. These are images that we saw earlier of them ramming that steel cage.
So, it has been going on now, Rosemary, for almost an hour, and those riot police, they are still inside the legislative council building. They have held up the red flag saying if you charge, we will use force.
Now, we know that the police are -- that they mean business. We saw it on the 12th of June, those ugly clashes between protesters and police when police fired at the protesters using tear gas, rubber bullets, bean bag bullets. There were more than 80 injuries.
These were ugly scenes beamed out around the world. There was international condemnation. And really since then the police have had a pretty low profile. We haven't seen them out in force until today. There were ugly clashes this morning at 7.30 a.m. this morning. There were ugly clashes then. There was a standoff.
It then seemed to dissipate, but now we are seeing these protesters trying to get inside the legislative council building, and I was with Andrew Stevens down there when the protesters were discussing what is the next step, what form of action do we want to take.
There is a lot of debate. We have to remember that this is a leaderless protest, these are leaderless demonstrations. This is something being brought together by social media and the app Telegram. That is how these protesters are communicating. And the majority of them are very young. They are students on university break, who are not just fighting to have that extradition bill completely withdrawn, they are fighting for the future of Hong Kong.
That is what is at stake for these young people of Hong Kong. They fear the encroachment of China. They fear that their freedoms are being eroded and they fear that they need to fight it. Many of them feel they need to act with force.
Let's now go to our Andrew Stevens who is down there in the thick of it outside the legislative council building. Andrew, what is going on?
ANDREW STEVENS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A slight lull at the moment, Anna, but I've just been into the crowd behind me here to gauge the extent of the damage because we know that they've been ramming one metal cage on wheels repeatedly into the front doors, these reinforced front- glass front-doors, but all along now this glass -- glass frontage, you can see, there are protesters with poles or with some sort of objects trying to smash the glass.
And I got up to the front there. They were surrounded by other protesters. They were hammering at the glass. Behind that glass -- they had actually broken the glass. Behind it was what looked like a steel gate so they couldn't get any further with that. But the protesters are stopping people taking photographs of what they're doing.
They're obviously worried about being identified, which you can understand, but the situation remains.
[03:05:02] You have heavily armed or prepared police inside that building standing there watching as protesters are trying to smash their way into them.
Now, nowhere can you think that they're going to let them come in and storm actually into the building. So those police are there and they will react if those doors, if that glass is breached in a significant way. So, there are dozens inside the building. I've been told there are
literally -- and you are saying this, Anna, there are hundreds of other police on the other side of this building this legislative council the parliament waiting to act. And when they act, they will act in concert, no doubt, and try to sweep these people out of here.
But the moment it's a standoff. The students are still trying to get in and the police are standing by and watching.
COREN: Yes, Andrew, those hundreds of police that we can see from our vantage point over our shoulder, perhaps Javid our cameraman, can zoom in on those police. But there are hundreds of them, hundreds of them with helmets, with shields, with batons. They are getting ready to act.
And we heard a short time ago them yelling at people on the street saying "move, we are coming in." Telling people who were just standing by watching saying "get out of here. We are about to act."
So, Andrew, it really does feel like the police are about to do something. And at the end of the day, we have to -- we have to put this into context. While this is a protest, this is meant to be a peaceful protest on the first of July, a day where they historically hold these demonstrations against really the encroachment of China.
We are now seeing these ugly scenes, these violent scenes, these acts of force from protesters who are damaging public property.
I mean, this is the legislative council building. This is like parliament house in Australia or the White House in Washington, D.C This is a government building where the government of the day here in Hong Kong goes -- goes to work.
STEVENS: That's absolutely right. And the June 12th confrontation with when the police did sweep out the streets and were accused of using excessive force, and which remains one of the key demands of protesters, an independent commission into the actions of the police on June the 12th.
The police themselves said that the trigger, the key trigger for their action was that this building behind me, LegCo, was the target of protesters trying to storm the building, which is exactly what they're apparently attempting to do now.
So, the police have already made it very clear that this is a very big red line that they will not tolerate. But it's interesting because the protesters here are mainly young, and as you've been saying, Anna, you know, they look at a future of Hong Kong under Chinese rule and they -- in many cases they just don't see their future. They have no democratic voice. Their democratic voice gets ever, ever smaller.
Economically, it's virtually impossible for most of the people here to get on to the property ladder. Jobs are not as easy as they were to find and so on. So, there is a lot of frustration, a lot of despair amongst Hong Kong's youth and this is what is driving these protesters to take this action. As opposed to the much bigger protests we have seen, which we will see
again today, which is organized by a group called the Civil Human Rights front, which has so far got one million people on to the streets in one weekend, got two million people on to the street the following weekend and are hoping to get another big turnout today.
And they say, and it's quite true, those protests have always been peaceful, but it's worth noting after that two million people turned up on the streets to protest against the government's decision, chief executive Carrie Lam's decision not to completely scrap the bill, she didn't take any notice of that. The government didn't move.
So here they are back again. We're getting his much bigger protest about to kick off. In fact, it's probably just kicked off now. So, this city remains in a state of protest. And I spoke to the convener of the main protest, and she said until we get what we want, until we get that bill scrapped, until we get an independent investigation on the police action on June 12th, we are going to continue to come out. We don't know how and when but it's not over yet, Anna.
COREN: Yes, I think it's fair to say, Andrew, that there is a real sense of desperation amongst these young people. There was much talk of them having this taste of victory when Carrie Lam she suspended, indefinitely suspended that extradition bill, that as you say they want complete withdrawal.
[03:10:06] They want remember to resign. They want an independent investigation into the police brutality on the 12th of June.
Andrew Stevens, please stand by and monitor to the situation for us. We'll come straight back to you as soon as there are any developments, but let's now go to our Matt Rivers who is monitoring the protest, the protest which has begun, which sadly has been overshadowed by what is taking place here at the legislative council building. Matt, what is happening?
MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anna, I think what's going on at the legislative council building really couldn't be any more different happening where we are, roughly three kilometers or so away from where you are in Tamar Park. We're near Victoria Park. That is the start of the planned march today.
And we do believe the march has started to begin. Although, when there's this many people around it's hard to tell because sometimes it takes a while for everyone to get moving.
But what's happening is all the people that are coming in from behind me, so walking up this street and then heading this direction. You can see over here they're following this sidewalk; they're walking around and then Victoria Park is just on the other side of that fence right there.
We've been in this position now for probably an hour and a half, two hours and the people keep coming. And they're still coming, they're still coming. There is an MTR stop not far from where -- a subway stop not far from where we are right now. A lot of people have been getting off that stop, coming up here and
heading into the park. And so, this is a very peaceful protest so far, at least on this side of things. These are people who are very calm. The police here very calm. No tear gas. No batons. No riot shields.
This is just the beginning of a -- of a protest that we will see how similar it is to what happened roughly two weeks ago, two Sundays ago, which was very similar. A march started here in Victoria Park, went through the streets of Hong Kong for hours, ultimately finishing near the legislative council building. And it was for the nearly the entire thing was very, very peaceful.
That march brought out roughly two million people, according to organizers. We're not sure how many are going to turn out for this one, but the numbers, you know, there is no way for me to accurately estimate it, but it is certainly thousands and thousands of people that have been streaming into the park.
Eventually, Anna, they're going to come to where you are for what hopefully remains to be a peaceful protest during their march throughout the streets of Hong Kong.
COREN: Matt, I want to ask you as somebody who is based in Beijing, has been living in China for the last few years, we know people on the mainland will not be seeing any of these demonstrations and certainly they won't be witnessing what is happening --
COREN: -- at the legislative council building. But tell me, how will Chinese authorities be viewing this? They have been sitting on their hands. Surely, they can't continue to do that, considering what is going on in Hong Kong at this very moment.
RIVERS: Yes, I mean, I can tell you that news of these protests, not only today's protests, but the protests that we've seen over the last three or four weeks, they've all been censored in Chinese state media. You haven't seen hardly any coverage of it.
While I can't see the CNN signal in mainland China right now, there is a good chance that it is being censored, that it is being blacked out by the mainland Chinese government authorities. We know that was the case earlier today, as CNN has been reporting on it.
So, what that means, is that if you were sitting in a hotel in mainland China, you know, watching CNN, the screen would go black until we are done reporting about this particular story. And that's not a surprise because the democratic style freedoms that Hong Kong has long enjoyed here, they don't exist in the mainland.
And that is part of the reason why the people are out here. Yes, they are extremely upset about this extradition bill that's, you know, 1A on the list of grievances, but it's a broader, it's just part of a broader concern amongst the people of Hong Kong. You talk to the people here. They don't want to become like any other Chinese city where the government has the ability to censor a free press, where they have the ability to knock down any sort of political speech or criticism of the government.
And so, you're right, you know, I've lived in the mainland for four years now, and you've seen nothing like this in the mainland and you wouldn't because the Chinese government, the communist party wouldn't allow it.
And so there could not be a more stark contrast between, you know, with a protest like this that shows you the difference between Hong Kong and China. That's what these people are afraid of, becoming just like Beijing or Shanghai or any other Chinese city.
COREN: Matt Rivers, please stand by. We thank you for your reporting. Let's now go to our Nic Robertson who is also in the protest. Nic, this is something that the Chinese government can only tolerate for so long. This, no doubt, is making them look weak, and it's only a matter of time, really, before the Chinese government reacts.
[03:15:01] NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, I think at this moment, at this place here it's sort of a question of when will the police here react? I'm literally at the front line at the (Inaudible) outside the LegCo building, the legislative buildings. I'm looking at the police officers inside. You're looking there at the shot there.
Now turning to look at the police inside. And I can see the police officer in charge literally waving his hand, calming his front-line officers down there. The officer in the white shirt is moving forward to inspect now just what's the damage that's been done because each time you hear the cheers go off here, that is the protesters just behind me here trying to ram and smash their way through the window.
I'm looking at the glass there right now and I can see there is already a tear, a big tear in the glass.
So maybe a few more pushes, maybe it will take longer. These protesters have been trying to get through the windows here for the last about hour and a half. Literally, I can hear the thud, thud, thud and the smash, smash, smash of doors just a few feet behind our cameraman Hidey (Ph) here, that the protesters are trying to put through.
Behind me here as well they're trying to get through. But it's the officers inside. You're talking about how long can the Chinese authorities withstand this level of protest campaign.
But quite literally, on the front line of this protest here at this moment, it does feel how much longer will the police remain calm, remain standing by inside, but the officers on the front line here, they've got their helmets on. They don't seem to be -- have their gas masks on, as if they're going to be using tear gas, but they do seem to be calm right now, and just waiting to see which way the situation goes. But once these windows and doors here are breached, if they are
breached, then the equation changes. Then what happens then? Will the officers come out? Will they stand back and watch? Will they just try to push people back? And that's the tense nature of the very front line of this protest.
Of course, thousands upon thousands of people are coming out to protest on the street where mass is. They're coming out peaceful. They want a peaceful protest. The feeling at the front here among this, what I can describe as a predominately young crowd who seem prepared.
The man next to me probably a journalist with a gas mask, but further back they've got hard hats on. The crowd here prepared for some sort of trouble with the police. So definitely by trying to crack through these windows here, they're potentially going to precipitate that upon themselves. Anna?
COREN: Yes, it's quite incredible that those police are just standing on the other side waiting for those -- for those protesters to pierce that glass.
And, Nic, I can tell you there are some 400, at least 400 police with their shields, with their batons and their helmets who are staged, they're assembled just 100 meters from where we are who are prepared to obviously come and join those other riot police and probably corral those protesters where you are.
But, Nic, please stay with us. We are monitoring this situation very closely. Don't go anywhere. We'll be right back after the break.
[03:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
COREN: Welcome back. I'm Anna Coren, live from Hong Kong. We have just got word the protesters have rammed through those glass doors of the legislative council building.
Our Nic Robertson is there. We see the police have put up their flag. Nic, tell us. Describe the scene.
ROBERTSON: Yes, since I talked to you last, Anna, which was only a few minutes ago, I can see more of the police have got their gas masks on inside. They're getting closer to the smashed through window. Riot shields are at the ready.
There is a look of expectation, anticipation on the faces of a lot of the officers there. I think like the crowd here; they don't really quite know what is going to happen next.
The glass right behind me is torn here. The crowd seems to be debating their next move. The door about 10 meters in front of where I'm standing, that would be behind the camera to you.
Again, the crowd seems to have gone static and quiet over there. This is an extraordinary standoff, an extraordinary confrontation. Modern in every respect. There are so many cameras covering this moment live. Inside behind the police, lines of press there. Behind the protesters and surrounding the protesters here obviously,
lines and lines of journalists. So, this is getting as much coverage as any protest I have ever seen. And the real focus here is clearly the breach in the glass windows here, the doors at the front of LegCo building. Not just because there is a thought that the protesters could really stream inside and run amok, but merely for what it symbolizes.
The government whose decision that the protesters here want to overturn. This is what it's about. This is symbolic in some ways, but the police at the moment still remaining relatively calm inside.
Indeed, I see police officers filming me right now as we are live. The police recording all the events that they're able to record here, but most of the time these police cameras have been looking at the protesters and focusing on the protesters at the front line here to see what they're doing.
But I have to say, Anna, going back to this and the police, there isn't a sense that the police are about to charge. There is a sense that they're ready for anything, but maintaining their position.
The crowd here for their part seeming to be debating amongst themselves what to do. Should they try to rip through the rest of the glass here and puncture this standoff as it is right now and precipitate whatever comes after that or are they happy with the symbolism of what they've achieved so far?
We're going to see that play out in the next minutes. And I just think anyone here, either side of the glass really knows what to anticipate at this moment.
[03:25:03] COREN: Yes, Nic, we're also looking at images of police with gas masks and there seems to be, whether it's tear gas, whether it's pepper spray, there seems to be something in the air. And then those police, they are holding up that red flag, which obviously is a sign that if you move forward, we will use force.
So, we're looking at those images of police waiting for those protesters. So, these are the moments a short time ago when -- when those protesters smashed through those glass doors at the legislative council building.
And you can see they are firing, whether it be tear gas or prepping spray, they are firing at the protesters. Have their umbrellas out and they are trying to get through -- get through.
ROBERTSON: Anna, I can tell you --
CORENZ: And so, they look like they are smashing other windows.
ROBERTSON: And from -- they are. Anna, if I describe to you what I'm seeing. I'll stand this way to the camera so we can see. So, to my left, there is this window here three or four meters that is ripped and torn.
Behind the glass on the other side there are police officers. To my right, to my other hand, about six meters away, it's going to be very difficult for him to swing his camera around, but he's looking towards that line that you were talking about.
And I can see through the glass and I can see that police flag was up, the red flag on the inside that tells the protesters that the police will -- don't want the violence, don't want this rioting. That's just on the other side of the glass. I'm pointing towards where it is through that window now.
Of course, it's very hard to maneuver because it's a very crowded space. Everyone is crowded here and pressing up against the glass. So those camera images that we are seeing on the inside there and the use of the pepper spray, I could smell the pepper spray in the air maybe 10 minutes ago. That seems to be the police's first line of defense.
If this window goes through, and if that window went through there, it seems that the police are prepared to use and have used pepper spray. Here we've seen pepper spray used on people earlier today, used on protesters earlier today. And it's a standoff.
This is a classic standoff situation right now. Will the protesters puncture through to try to get into this building? It's unclear. What would the police do if they do?
Right now the police are just standing on their lines monitoring the situation, but it's clear that in the arsenal of instruments that the police can bring to bear on protesters is if they try to get into the building, but not only the riot shields, not only the pepper spray, I'm also looking an officer there who is carrying to me what appears to be an automatic weapon over his shoulder, a long rifle. Yes, this is a long rifle.
But it's not clear to me what sort of ammunition he has in that rifle. But he's the only officer I see with the rifle on his shoulder. It's slung over his shoulder. And in fact, as you can hear the crowd calling out again. Looks like they're going for another --
COREN: Yes, there is no doubt there is going to be an ugly confrontation. It is only a matter of time. We know that these protesters, they are leaderless. There is nobody who is in charge. So, it's those protesters at the front.
They're probably discussing what to do next in this standoff with dozens of riot police at the legislative council building here in Hong Kong.
Stay with CNN. Much more coming up after the break.
[03:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT AND ANCHOR: Welcome back. I'm Anna Coren live from Hong Kong. A short time ago, protesters managed to penetrate those glass doors outside the Legislative Council Building. There is now a very tense standoff between protesters and riot police. There are dozens of riot police inside that council building. They have put up the red flag, saying, "If you move forward, we will use force."
We can see the protesters there. They are still standing outside. That window has been smashed. The steel cage trolley that they have been pushing into that glass door for the past hour, hour and a half, is finally piercing through that reinforced glass. And now we have this very tense standoff between both parties, waiting for something to happen.
Joining me now is a Felix Chung. He is a pro-Beijing lawmaker here in Hong Kong. He, of course, has also been watching these protests. Felix, what is your reaction to what has been happening at the Legislative Council Building?
FELIX CHUNG, MEMBER, LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL OF HONG KONG: Of course, the situation right now is very worse and very serious. I mean, we cannot accept this thought of -- situation happening in the Legislative Council. We express a very strong condemnation to the protesters. I mean, nobody in the world will accept this kind of violence to the Legislative Council, a parliament, of course, like the White House in the United States. I think the police -- the Hong Kong police have already given lots of --
CHUNG: -- patience and stance to the situation. I hope they can --
COREN: Yes, Felix. There's no denying the police have been very patient. But if I can just interrupt, what are you expecting the police to do? Why have they been standing there for the past hour and a half allowing protesters to ram that glass door? You can see police. They are filming them. They are filming these protesters. Why have they allowed this behavior, this very unsocial behavior to continue for the past hour and a half?
CHUNG: You know, in the past two demonstrations that we had in the last few weeks, most of the demonstrations are very peaceful, and this time is not a peaceful demonstration. Certainly, we need to prove -- the protesters this time are using strong force to attack our Legislative Council. Certainly, we need to prove to everybody in this society that this is not a peaceful demonstration. I think --
[03:35:01] COREN: Felix, my question is, what do you want police to do? What do you want police to do? Do you want them to fire tear gas?
CHUNG: The police --
COREN: Do you want them to fire rubber bullets? What do you want police to do? CHUNG: No. The police will do whatever they can do to protect the whole building. I mean, this is a government building. This represents the legislation of Hong Kong. So certainly, they will do whatever they can do to protect the building.
COREN: Felix, I would say, however, there are some 400 police over my shoulder, riot police, who could intervene. They could push these protesters on, but they have decided not to. They have allowed them, basically, to ram this glass door. I'm not quite sure that would happen in any other city in the world. So why have Hong Kong police allow them to do this for the last hour and a half?
CHUNG: Certainly, they are just standing by. I think they will do something after. Of course, I'm not from the police force. I do not know the strategies they have right now. I think the person in charge of that will make a clear decision later and see how to clear this up.
Nobody wants this situation to happen. We want to have a peaceful city. I mean, this sort of riot, I will say they are hooligans. To attack the legislative building is really serious. I hope the police will clear them up as soon as possible.
COREN: Felix, many of these protesters say that Carrie Lam, the city's chief executive, has not listened to them. Yes, she has suspended this bill but she has not withdrawn it, which is what the protesters have demanded. Why hasn't she listened to the protesters?
CHUNG: Certainly, this morning, when she made her announcement on the cocktail of the celebration of 22nd anniversary of return of Hong Kong going back to China, she did say that she will listen to people and she said that she will change her attitude for making the policy. I do hope that she will work that out.
But even though whatever the government -- I mean, the demonstration should not have been done, this sort of violent attack to the Legislative Council. Of course, we do advise her to take some actions to respond to what the general public require. I think she is making the decision and she is thinking about that seriously.
COREN: All right. Felix Chung, we are going to have to leave it there. We certainly appreciate you joining us.
CHUNG: Thank you.
COREN: Felix Chung, a pro-Beijing lawmaker here in Hong Kong. Well, we are following those developments outside the Legislative Council Building, that standoff, very tense standoff between protesters and dozens of police. There are hundreds of other riot police around as we speak. But stay with CNN. We will have much more of this story coming up.
[03:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
COREN: Welcome back. I'm Anna Coren live from Hong Kong. We have been following this very tense standoff outside to Legislative Council Building where protesters have been facing off with police. A short time ago, the managed to penetrate those glass doors of the Legislative Council Building and there are dozens of riot police inside with shields, with helmets, with batons.
We did see some tear gas or pepper spray that was released a short time ago as well. Police are putting on their gas masks. You can see the shattered glass. They were ramming a steel cage trolley into those glass doors for up to an hour and a half before they finally penetrated. And now, we are just waiting to see how police are going to react.
Very shortly, we will head back to the protest. But now, joining me is Emily Lau. She is a Hong Kong activist and a former pro-democracy lawmaker. Emily, what do you make of these scenes that we are witnessing a few hundred meters from where you are standing?
EMILY LAU, FORMER CHAIRWOMAN, THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Exactly. It's very disturbing and very alarming. This is not the Hong Kong we know. And just then before I came here, I got a message online saying the people who are ramming the things into the Legislative Council glasses were the very people who were here yesterday because there was a big rally in support of the police. So some people have recognized them. So they are sort of agent provocateurs.
COREN: You're saying that the people are not legitimate protesters? They are agitators, if you like, potentially paid agitators?
LAU: That's what I saw online. And what the message says is to tell the other protesters, mostly peaceful young protesters to be very careful and not to be made use of. And then the other thing that you just asked, why is it that the police did not take any action?
COREN: This has been going on --
LAU: I know.
COREN: -- for an hour and a half. They were ramming that trolley with a steel cage for an hour and a half and police just watched. That would not happen, Emily, in any --
LAU: I know.
COREN: -- other city --
COREN: -- developed city --
COREN: -- an international hub, financial hub like Hong Kong. Why are police allowing that to happen here?
LAU: I just got another message, which I think is very interesting. It's that because the police, two weeks ago, they accused the people of rioting, because there wasn't much of a riot. And of course, one of the demands now is for the police to retract that accusation. Now, Carrie Lam, the chief executive and the police are going to show the world these are real rioters!
COREN: Exactly. Emily, stand by because I think we are just going to go to Nic Robertson who is in the thick of it. Nic, describe to us what is going on.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Anna, we are looking for the glass window now at the police. They are holding that paper spray cans in front of them. I've seen while I've been standing here now a change in the mood of the police. They are lined up. They are listening to their officers who are speaking to them.
I've seen them pulling on their protected gloves, getting a better grip of their batons. The officer at the front there, one at the front, I'm looking right now, holding his baton, getting his pepper spray ready. There is another charge on the window here.
[03:45:01] You really get the impression looking to this. I see the officer shaking up his pepper spray can. It appears the police are getting ready for some sort of action against the protesters who are getting closer to pushing through that window. It is getting tense here at this moment, tense here by the minute.
The police, as I say, have been stretching their gloves on, pulling their gloves tight, getting a better hold of their batons, preparing and holding their gas canisters out in front of them. They appear to be just waiting for the word of what to do from their officers.
One officer is speaking on a microphone. We obviously don't hear what he is saying. We don't know what he is saying, but it seems to be instructions to somebody somewhere, possibly relaying exactly what he is saying because he is the officer immediately at the front line of the police. He is the one closest to that smashed window.
Really at this moment, we are just waiting for the tension to break. The only way it looks like it is going to break at the moment will be some sort of clash. The police have been saying they have been standing patiently inside. They have been sort of in a relaxed mode of standing. But now, to me, it appears as if they're getting closer to a more direct confrontation than this standoff. Literally, a piece of glass, plate strong glass and a few meters between them and these thousands of protesters here.
So this is the mood that is building here. It pitches up. It comes down. It ebbs and flows. At the moment, it is reaching one of its more tense moments right now. You can hear the chants and the shots of the protesters in the background here, as it appears they get ready for another effort to move forward at this glass.
COREN: Nic, there are thousands of people down there. I want to ask you about the protesters at the very front, those who are going to take the full brunt of whatever police throw at them quite literally. You get a sense that something is about to happen very, very soon. These protesters, have you had a chance to speak to them? What are they hoping to achieve by having these clashes, these ugly clashes with these police?
ROBERTSON: Anna, I'm not sure if you're speaking to me. What they want to do is they want these changes -- they want the government to repeal this extradition bill. Not only that, they also want investigation and accountability for the injuries they suffered in the protests over the past couple of weeks that they say were at the hands of the police, that there were instances of people beating, unarmed civilian protesters being beaten with batons, others injured.
They want investigation into that. Probably several dozen protesters at least injured in this way that have raised serious concerns about how they were injured by the police, why the police were so forceful with them. So these are the two issues. When you create a confrontation like this, you have a front line, you have the name of the protesters to smash the windows, it almost develops a momentum beyond those basic aims in of itself.
So at the moment, they seem to be at that stage. No one here is standing, chanting those words, those lines. No one is -- where I am, at least, telling the police that the government should repeal the Extradition Act completely, asking the police or asking the police for thorough investigation into those what some the protesters here would call overzealous acts of brutality by the police over the recent weeks.
That is the aim. It manifests itself here as what pretends to be an ugly confrontation. But the police are biding their time. I think as I'm looking out through the window here right now --
COREN: But at the end of the day, Nic.
ROBERTSON: -- I do get the sense --
COREN: I was just going to say, Nic, at the end of the day these protesters have damaged public property. I mean, this is the Legislative Council Building here in Hong Kong. It is the equivalent of the White House in Washington D.C. or Parliament House. This is a government building that protesters have now smashed through. Stay with CNN, we are closely following these developments much more after the break.
[03:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
COREN: Welcome back. I'm Anna Coren live from Hong Kong. We have been following these ugly clashes between protesters and police on the 22nd anniversary of the Hong Kong handover from Britain to mainland China. We are looking at live pictures of that standoff. We are getting reports that protesters are using metal bars to smash the windows, the doors, of LegCo.
A short time ago, some 15, 20 minutes ago, protesters managed to penetrate those glass doors, reinforced glass doors with a metal cage on a trolley. They have been ramming those doors for almost an hour and a half before they finally penetrated. And now, our Nic Robertson is down there in the thick of it. Nic, describe the scene to us.
ROBERTSON: They are trying to ram through that glass. It's tearing. It's reinforced glass. It's tearing. They are pushing it back. It's opening up at the top as I'm looking at it right now. I'm looking at it right now. We can see the glass is tearing at the top. You're getting a shot of it from here.
On the inside, the police are lined up. They moved forward. Those officers are moving with paper spray now. They are using the spray, I believe, at the front. The officers are being pulled back. It is a very, very fluid situation, but it is very clear that the glass gets more and more penetrated, more and more broken, more and more ripped.
[03:55:00] Right now, I will try to describe it as best I can. It is a large kind of glass that is maybe four feet, a meter and a half wide. It is about two and a half meters high, about eight foot or so high. The protesters have managed to shatter and ripped through the lower two thirds, but it is ripped along one side.
So, there isn't space there for protesters to, say, climb through. The police need to actually repel protesters from getting through. But as that gets bigger, the police on the other side of the glass get more and more ready and edging forward. They get more and more tense. The shields go up. They shake their paper spray canisters.
Just now, we saw them rush forward to spray -- I'm getting a little bit of the taste of that spray now -- to spray pepper spray through the glass when the protesters managed to get a sustained effort of smashing and smashing and smashing on that glass, they are managing to rip it back inch by inch by inch. So this is slowly moving here on the front line. Right now, there is a metal bar stuck right at it. The police are trying to grab that metal out of the glass. It seems they have taken it.
COREN: Nic, what we can see as well as these protesters is a sea of cameras which is just extraordinary. This is being documented. This is going live out to the international community. This is what the world is seeing of Hong Kong right now on the 22nd anniversary of the Hong Kong handover from Britain to mainland China.
There is a march that is currently underway, a peaceful march, through the streets of Hong Kong, in which tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands are part of, but that has been overshadowed by what we have seen right now outside the Legislative Council Building.
For our viewers in the United States, "Early Start" begins. But for the rest of you, join me for another hour of CNN.