HONG KONG — Hong Kong authorities vowed Wednesday to hunt down the protesters who ransacked parliament in an unprecedented challenge to the Beijing-backed government, as the city grappled with its biggest political crisis in decades.
The semi-autonomous city has been shaken by massive anti-government demonstrations since last month, sparked by a law that would have allowed extraditions to the mainland.
The anger spilled over on Monday as groups of mostly young, hardline protesters — who have demanded the resignation of the city’s leader Carrie Lam and the cancellation of the bill — stormed Hong Kong’s Legislative Council.
They used a makeshift battering ram to smash their way in, and then sprayed graffiti on the walls of its main chamber and defaced the city’s seal.
Investigators continued to gather evidence from the damaged building on Wednesday.
“Police will resolutely pursue the protestors for their illegal and violent acts at the Complex on July 1,” the police said in a statement, adding that they were “now actively investigating and collecting evidence... in order to bring the offenders to justice”.
Authorities are analysing DNA samples and fingerprints to identify suspects and are planning raids to arrest them “in the near future”, the South China Morning Post reported, citing an unnamed Hong Kong law enforcement source.
The escalation on Monday was the latest, and most serious, in a number of tense face-offs — some violent — between protesters and authorities since the pro-democracy campaign began.
Two days later, the damage was still visible.
Most of the graffiti remained on the walls, including slogans such as “HK is not China”.
Some placards placed by protesters in the legislature’s main chamber had been removed, an AFP journalist saw during a guided tour of the building the authorities.
Shattered glass was strewn across the floor near panels that the protesters smashed to make their way inside, and some security cameras dangled from the ceilings and walls on wires — apparently pulled out by protesters.
In one of the building’s main security offices, desks were tipped over and computer screens were thrown on the floor, which was strewn with documents and paper.
Makeshift barricades made from metal railings — which protesters have used to protect themselves from police charges — were still in some corridors.
Lam, the Hong Kong chief executive, has vowed to carry on, and while she has said the controversial extradition legislation is suspended, it has failed to quell anger.
Earlier Wednesday, police announced that eight people — six men and two women, aged 16-40 — had been arrested for allegedly “doxxing” officers, launching cyberattacks on police websites and inciting others to “commit damage”.
Doxxing is the online release of personal data stolen from targets, often to shame or incite harassment against them.
The alleged crimes “affected a large number of officers, resulting not only in nuisance but threats”, Hong Kong police official Swalikh Mohammed told a press conference, adding that some officers and their family members received death threats.
He did not offer further details.
Mohammed said that there were also failed attempts to take down police websites with Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, which involve overwhelming servers with a massive amount of junk requests.
Allegations against the police of excessive force and unlawful tactics against protesters have fuelled public anger in recent weeks, and many protest groups have demanded an investigation into how the force handled the demonstrations — the biggest wave of opposition against Beijing and the Hong Kong government since Britain returned the city to China in 1997.