Hong Kong - Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam early Tuesday criticized violent protesters who broke into and vandalized the Legislative Council (LegCo) building amid continuing tumult surrounding a controversial extradition bill.
At a press conference with security officials at police headquarters, Lam drew a distinction between good and bad protesters.
"We have seen two entirely different public scenes," she said. One was a "regular march on July 1" which she described as "peaceful and generally orderly."
"This fully reflects the inclusiveness of Hong Kong society and the core values we attach to peace and order," Lam asserted.
"The second scene that we have seen, which really saddens a lot of people and shocks a lot of people, is the extreme use of violence and vandalism by protesters who stormed into the Legislative Council building over a period of time," Lam said.
"Nothing is more important than the rule of law in Hong Kong," the chief executive stressed. She said those responsible for violently entering the building and vandalizing the interior would be punished.
There have been no immediate reports of arrests in the wake of the violence. Thirteen police officers were injured, officials said.
Lam reiterated that the contested bill allowing the extradition of criminals to mainland China is not coming back.
"By suspending the bill at this point in time with no timetable and no plan to resume the debate of the bill in the Legislative Council, the bill will expire, or the bill will die in July 2020 when the current LegCo term expires," Lam added, according to a transcript of the press conference.
A group of demonstrators had stormed the Legislative Council on Monday. Hundreds occupied the building in the evening after destroying the glass front and parts of a fence.
They were part of a massive anti-government protest and gained entry after hours of battering doors and glass panels with metal poles and other items.
Once inside, they spray-painted slogans on the walls and trashed parts of the interior.
The violence in Hong Kong took place on the 22nd anniversary of the July 1, 1997, handover of the former British colony to China.
Every year a march takes place on July 1 to protest against the Chinese government. This year's anniversary was particularly tense due to demonstrations against the extradition bill.
Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China and was guaranteed autonomy until 2047 when it returned to Chinese sovereignty.
With the extradition bill, opponents see the long arm of Beijing interfering in Hong Kong's domestic politics.
The bill, known as the Fugitive Offender's Ordinance, was introduced following a case last year when a local man allegedly killed his pregnant girlfriend while on holiday in Taiwan, but could not be extradited as Taipei and Hong Kong do not share an extradition agreement.
It would allow Hong Kong to extradite to jurisdictions where it does not maintain a long-term extradition agreement on a case-by-case basis.
The bill has sparked three major marches, two of them peaceful with participants numbering in the millions. Another march on June 12 saw police deploy pepper spray, rubber bullets and tear gas against protesters.dpa