Hundreds of anti-extradition protesters yesterday took their fight to Beijing's Liaison Office in the western part of Hong Kong island, Sheung Wan and Central, in a violent showdown with riot police who fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd.
The protesters arrived at the office at 7pm, sprayed graffiti on the walls, defaced the office's plaque and threw eggs at the building.
Despite repeated police warnings, they moved slowly away from the Liaison Office towards Sheung Wan and Central. The police fired rounds of tear gas and later, rubber bullets, in a bid to disperse the group that refused to leave Sheung Wan, near Shun Tak Centre. Details are not available as to the number of injured or arrested.
A spokesman for the Liaison Office strongly condemned protesters who vandalised the building and defaced the national emblem, saying the actions were a direct challenge to national sovereignty.
Former Hong Kong leader Leung Chun Ying, now a vice-chairman of Beijing's top advisory body, the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, also condemned the protesters, calling them mobs who must be punished by the law.
It was the seventh consecutive weekend of protests in Hong Kong and another that has ended in violent clashes. Tens of thousands of people marched in the afternoon to protest against a contentious extradition Bill that has been suspended indefinitely.
The Civil Human Rights Front, which organised yesterday's march, said 430,000 people took part, while police pegged it at 138,000.
Protesters, who are angry at what they say is China's erosion of the city's cherished freedoms, later took out their anger on the Liaison Office in the Sai Ying Pun district.
They threw black paint at the Chinese national emblem, sprayed CCTV cameras with paint and called for Liaison Office chief Wang Zhimin to come out.
It's like Hong Kong doesn't have a government now, with the Liaison Office controlling matters and supporting (Chief Executive) Carrie Lam in whatever she does.
A PROTESTER WHO WANTED TO BE KNOWN ONLY AS TOMMY
A protester who wanted to be known only as Tommy, 25, said the Hong Kong government "is non-existent", even after so many citizens voiced different opinions every day.
"It's like Hong Kong doesn't have a government now, with the Liaison Office controlling matters and supporting (Chief Executive) Carrie Lam in whatever she does."
Asked if he was afraid, Tommy said with a laugh: "I'm not afraid of dying. Why would we be? Hong Kong is already dead."
Following the rally, a group gathered outside the Wan Chai police headquarters, as a second, even bigger, group moved towards the government headquarters in Admiralty while a third massed outside the Liaison Office.
The police had kept a low profile until the Liaison Office was vandalised.
In anticipation of possible clashes, the government and police headquarters were in lockdown, surrounded by huge water-filled plastic barricades.
Some protesters have been calling for an escalation of demonstrations throughout the week - with plenty of instructions on escape routes, supplies to take, things to wear, what to say if they are arrested and how to minimise injuries.
The protests were sparked by Mrs Lam's move to amend existing legislation so as to allow Hong Kong to send suspects to other jurisdictions, including mainland China, to stand trial.
The unpopular Bill has triggered weeks of protests, several of which ended in violence.
Protesters have vowed to press on with the rallies until the government gives in to their five conditions. These are to: fully withdraw the Bill; release all those arrested so far; have a truly independent inquiry into allegations of police brutality; drop the label that the June 12 protest was a "riot"; and to implement universal suffrage.