- An estimated 550,000 people turned out for a typically peaceful march in Hong Kong on July 1, marking the 22nd anniversary of the city being handed over to China.
- Authorities expected the protests to be larger than usual, due to the last month of protests in the city over a proposed extradition bill.
- However, the protests became violent when demonstrators clashed with police and a breakaway group broke into the Legislative Council, where they vandalized the chambers.
- Around midnight, dozens of police officers surrounded the Council and used pepper spray to disperse the crowds.
New Wave of Protests
Protestors stormed the Hong Kong legislature Monday night and occupied the Legislative Council after a day of demonstrations.
Monday’s protests marked the 22nd anniversary of Hong Kong being handed over to China from Britain in 1997. Since then, Hong Kong has existed as an autonomous city-state of China.
Usually, the citizens of Hong Kong hold both pro-China and anti-China protests on the July 1 anniversary. This year, the government expected the protests to be much bigger and much more heated as demonstrations against a proposed extradition bill have continued for nearly a month.
The bill in question would allow the government to extradite people accused of committing certain crimes to countries or territories that Hong Kong does not have extradition agreements with, including China.
On June 15, Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam said she would suspend the bill indefinitely, but not fully withdraw it. As a result, intermittent protests of varying sizes have continued ever since.
Early on Monday morning local time, hundreds of protestors blocked three main roads with metal and plastic barricades. Those protestors were reportedly met by police with batons and pepper spray.
The police headquarters also reported that 13 officers were taken to the hospital after protestors threw an “unknown liquid” at them. However, those clashes did not escalate further, and later, thousands of people took to the streets for a peaceful pro-democracy march.
Protest organizers estimated that 550,000 people turned out.
Later in the afternoon, a breakaway group of protestors moved to the Legislative Council and began ramming the glass doors with a metal trolley. Rows of riot police stood behind the glass door, holding a sign that said: “stop charging or we use force.”
Protestors Enter Legislative Council
The protestors eventually succeeded in breaking one of the glass doors and entered through it.
After that, the police reportedly fell back behind a metal barricade that surrounded the building, and tried to push the protestors back with tear gas and smoke.
By nighttime, the police stepped back, and the protestors were able to breach the metal barriers and enter the Legislative Council. Hundreds of protestors poured into the building.
They spray painted the walls, smashed glass windows and doors, and defaced portraits.
Some protestors also read out a list of 10 demands in the Legislative Council chamber. According to CNN, those demands included universal suffrage, top officials associated with the extradition bill to resign, and an investigation into police violence during the recent protests.
The Hong Kong police department issued a statement on Facebook regarding their intentions to address the situation. “The police will clear the scene in the Legislative Council Building in a short time,” the statement said. “Obstruction or resistance, the police will take appropriate force.”
Shortly after, the police started using teargas outside of the Legislative Council and began advancing towards the building, where some protestors could be seen fleeing.
According to reports, the protesters have now largely been removed.
Although anticipated by the authorities, Monday’s protests were markedly more violent than the other demonstrations that Hong Kong has seen in recent weeks.
Simultaneously, government officials held a flag-raising ceremony to honor the anniversary. At that ceremony, Lam spoke for the first time since she apologized to the protestors and suspended the bill.
During her speech, Lam said that she knew that the government has “a lot to improve,” and added that she will spend more time listening to the people of Hong Kong.
“This has made me fully realise that I, as a politician, have to remind myself all the time of the need to grasp public sentiments accurately,” said Lam.
“I am also fully aware that while we have good intentions, we still need to be open and accommodating. While the Government has to ensure administrative efficiency, it still needs to listen patiently.”
The New York Times reported that local television news channels in Hong Kong broadcasted a split screen that seemed to undermine Lam’s words.
On one side, Lam and other government officials from Hong Kong and China clinked champagne flutes in a toast to a unification, while on the other side, riot police clashed violently with protesters.
See what others are saying: (The Guardian) (CNN) (BBC)
YouTuber Accused of Murder After Using Livestream as Alibi
Stephen McCullagh may have eluded the authority’s suspicion if not for CCTV footage that allegedly puts him near the scene of the crime.
Police Peer Behind the Veil
A Northern Ireland YouTuber was charged with murdering a pregnant woman last week, and police told the court he used his livestream as an alibi.
On Dec. 18, 32-year-old Natalie McNally was stabbed to death in her Silverwood Green home in Lurgan. She was 15 weeks pregnant.
Police initially arrested Stephen McCullagh, also 32 years old, but soon released him after he persuaded them he was livestreaming the night the murder happened.
McCullagh, from Woodland Gardens in Lisburn, is a part-time assistant audience editor for the Belfast Telegraph and has a YouTube channel with over 30,000 subscribers.
His livestream was indeed active on the night McNally was murdered, but the footage of him playing the video game Grand Theft Auto was pre-recorded days earlier, according to a technical examination of his devices by cyber experts.
Senior detective Neil McGuinness told district judge Rosie Watters that McCullagh denied any involvement in the crime but admitted that the livestream was faked in a written statement.
The YouTuber later revised his story from that night to claim he drank alone at home then fell asleep.
Prosecutors alleged the suspect had devised a “sophisticated, calculated and cool-headed plot” and was “capable of deception beyond imagination.”
Damning Evidence Comes to Light
Police told the court they can trace McCullagh’s movements from the crime scene back to his home on Dec. 18 using CCTV footage from a bus and an account from a taxi driver.
A man police believe to be McCullagh is seen boarding the bus with his hood pulled down and scarf pulled up.
According to the statement, the man removes a black glove to accept his change from the driver, revealing a second yellow glove underneath.
McGuinness said it was consistent with the print of a Marigold glove found in a blood stain at the crime scene.
Police also believe the same man boarded a taxi. Based on an analysis of GPS data, authorities say the cab allegedly stopped at McCullagh’s address.
At the beginning of McCullagh’s pre-recorded stream, he told his audience that he couldn’t respond to their live chat messages because of technical difficulties.
“I could use my phone to dip in every now and again and check it, but I’ve decided that I kind of hate livestreams where people just sit and read comments and go, ‘oh my God, yes, ask me questions,’” he added.
Police allege he deliberately referred to the time and said “I’m not leaving the house tonight” to reinforce his alibi.
At one point, he expresses fear about rising crime and underfunded police.
“That’s why I love sticking to just doing crimes in a video game,” he said. “Keeps things simple, mate.”
See what others are saying: (BBC) (The Guardian) (Irish Mirror)
200 Children Seeking Asylum in the U.K. Are Missing
The missing include at least 13 children under the age of 16.
Children Missing From Hotels
There are 200 asylum-seeking children missing from government care in the United Kingdom according to the parliamentary undersecretary of state at the Home Office.
When children are seeking asylum in the U.K. alone or separated from their parents, the government puts them up in hotel rooms for temporary accommodation. They have done so since 2021 and have temporarily accommodated 4,600 children in that time. However, Simon Murray, the parliamentary undersecretary of state at the Home Office, said that 200 of the children placed in those hotels are missing, including at least 13 who are under the age of 16.
In response to this information, a collection of more than 100 charities sent a letter to the Prime Minister demanding the end of the procedure of placing kids in hotels over safety concerns. The letter says that these children are at risk of trafficking and exploitation by staying in these hotels alone.
Other officials have echoed these concerns, claiming these hotels are targets for organized crime where people use these vulnerable children for labor or trafficking.
Parliament Calls Incident “Horrific”
Murray told the House of Lords on Monday that despite the media reports, his department does not know of any kidnapping cases, though they are investigating. He went on to say there are many reasons why children go missing.
However, lawmakers were not appeased by Murray’s assurances. In a later debate, one member of Parliament called the missing cases “horrific” and another said that it was “putting children at risk.” The children’s commissioner for England also reportedly chimed in asking for, quote “assurances on the steps being taken to safeguard the children.”
Murray went on to say that the use of hotels for asylum-seeking children will hopefully be phased out as soon as possible but did not give a timeline.
The nonprofit Refugee Council called on the government in a tweet to spare no expense in the location of these missing kids.
See what others are saying: (Washington Post) (The Guardian) (The Telegraph)
100,000 U.K. Nurses Launch Biggest Strike in NHS History
Opposition leader Keir Starmer called the strike “a badge of shame on this government.”
The NHS Grinds to a Halt
Some 100,000 members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), the United Kingdom’s largest nursing union, launched a historic 12-hour strike Thursday after the government refused to negotiate on higher pay.
The work stoppage, which spans England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, is only the second in the RCN’s 106-year history and the largest the NHS has ever seen. It marks the breaking point for many underpaid nurses and the culmination of a years-long decline in the NHS’s quality of care, put under increasing stress by severe staffing shortages.
Although most NHS staff in England and Wales received a pay rise of around £1,400 this year, worth about 4% on average for nurses, they say it has not kept up with inflation as Britain plunges deeper into a cost-of-living crisis.
When inflation is accounted for, nurses’ pay dropped 1.2% every year from 2010 to 2017, according to the Health Foundation.
Meanwhile, the number of patients waiting for care has reached a record 7.2 million in England, or over one in eight residents, more than double what it was seven years ago.
In July, the cross-party Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee estimated the staffing shortfall could be as high as 50,000 nurses and 12,000 doctors, what one MP called the “greatest workforce crisis in history.”
Many nurses argue that boosting pay will help hospitals recruit more staff.
The RCN demanded a pay raise 5% above the retail rate of inflation, which amounts to a 19% increase, but both Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the government’s health secretary have claimed that’s not affordable.
During Thursday’s strike, partial staffing continued to remain open for urgent care such as chemotherapy, kidney dialysis, and children’s accident and neonatal units.
Sunak and Starmer Brawl in Parliament
Labor leader Keir Starmer grilled Sunak during Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) on the upcoming strike.
“Tomorrow will be the first-ever nationwide nurse’s strike,” he said. “All the Prime Minister has to do to stop that is to open the door and discuss pay with them. If he did, the whole country would breathe a sigh of relief. Why won’t he?”
“We have consistently spoken to all the unions involved in all the pay disputes that there are,” Sunak replied. “Last year, when everyone else in the public sector had a public sector pay freeze, the nurses received a three-percent pay rise.”
Starmer fired back: “Nurses going on strike is a badge of shame for this government. Instead of showing leadership, he’s playing games with people’s health.”
Sunak called Starmer’s demand that he reopen negotiations with the RCN “just simply a political formula for avoiding taking a position on this issue.”
“If he thinks the strikes are wrong, he should say so,” Sunak said. “If he thinks it’s right that pay demands of nineteen percent are met, then he should say so. What’s weak, Mr. Speaker, is he’s not strong enough to stand up to the union.”
While Starmer has called on Sunak to negotiate with the RCN, he has not explicitly backed the 19% pay raise himself.
Unless the government returns to the bargaining table, the RCN plans to launch a second round of strikes on Dec. 20 to be followed by ambulance strikes that Wednesday and the next.
If the government still refuses to budge, the union said in a statement that nurses will strike for longer periods in more places starting in January, disrupting more health services.
Other industries are also set to see work stoppages this month, including workers on railways, buses, highways, and borders, as well as teachers, postal workers, baggage handlers, and paramedics.