Pepper spray and barricades used as new-town protesters try to storm Legco complex

Scenes of chaos as police use pepper spray to force back angry campaigners trying to force open the doors to Legco building

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 June, 2014, 10:05pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 June, 2018, 3:21pm

An angry, 200-strong crowd demonstrating against the government's plans for two new towns tried to force their way into the Legco building last night as police officers targeted them with pepper spray through the smashed glass of wall panels.

Protesters kept pushing at the doors behind their open umbrellas in an attempt to protect their faces from the stinging spray. One disabled man was seen reversing his electric wheelchair into a set of doors in an attempt to force them open.

Police used riot shields to beat back the bamboo poles that were being used to try to pry open doors - until officers went on the offensive, exiting the building using pepper spray to force back the protesters. Journalists were also sprayed in the mayhem.

Several people were seen pinned to the floor before being taken away by officers, while others received treatment from paramedics.

The lead-up to the drama started at about 3pm as people began arriving in time for the resumption of the Legislative Council's Finance Committee debate on a HK$340 million funding request for engineering works linked to plans to build two new towns in the northeastern New Territories.

They found the Legco complex surrounded by hundreds of barricades in an apparent effort to prevent a repeat of last Friday's scenes, when campaigners against the development plans occupied the building's ground floor during the committee's discussions.

Gates on the building's second floor where the meeting was being held were also rolled down.

"Legco today is no different from a prison. Lawmakers have lost the respect of the public," pan-democrat lawmaker Leung Yiu-chung said.

Denied access, the protesters, some of whom will lose their homes as a result of the development, sat in circles in front of the Legco complex.

At 5.15pm, one of the villagers whose home is set to disappear under the plans climbed onto a portico to put up a banner reading, "Withdraw the plan". He scuffled with police before returning to the ground.

The mood changed at about 8.30pm when news came that committee chairman Ng Leung-sing had decided to end a filibuster on the debate by not handling hundreds of new motions filed by pan-democrats. He had already cut motions tabled earlier from 939 to 40. He instead called for lawmakers to take a vote on the funding request last night.

During the ensuing mayhem, Ng ended up postponing the vote and the meeting, citing security reasons. The crowd then calmed down, only for chaos to erupt again until pan-democratic lawmakers emerged to call for calm.

Ng said the secretariat had advised him to cut the meeting short because "that would be safer for lawmakers when they went back to their offices".

It is the first time a meeting has been suspended due to security concerns since Legco moved to the Tamar site in 2011.

At 12.45am this morning, about 100 people remained sitting outside the building.

Police said they had made three arrests, all in the afternoon.

Additional reporting by Victoria Ann Duthie