July 1 (UPI) -- Activists opposed to a proposed Hong Kong law allowing extraditions to China stormed into the Legislative Council building Monday, vandalizing the central chamber before police could break up the protest.
The violent clashes between demonstrators and police left at least 54 people seeking treatment, hospital officials said. At least two were in serious condition, but most were discharged.
Some protesters pried open the doors to the Legislative Council, damaging portraits hanging inside and spray painting on the walls. They erected a banner inside reading "There's no rioters, there's only tyranny."
By 1 .a.m. Tuesday, police cleared the building and most protesters made their ways home.
For weeks, protesters have rallied in public to oppose legislation which would allow Hong Kong to send some criminals to mainland China.
Police said they used restraint and condemned the violence, despite reports they used pepper spray and batons on some demonstrators.
"I think most of the Hong Kong people are in no mood to celebrate," said lawmaker and protester Lam Cheuk-ting. "We urge [Hong Kong leader] Carrie Lam to step down as soon as possible, because she has refused to listen to the Hong Kong people for so long."
Police said more than a dozen officers were injured when lines of protesters charged a blockade and hurled objects filled with liquid, possibly drain cleaner.
"Police officers at the scene were injured and among them, some experienced difficulty in breathing and had swollen and itchy skin," authorities said.
Riot police used pepper spray on Fenwick Pier Street, resulting in at least one person being hospitalized, the Hong Kong Free Press reported.
Hundreds of masked protesters, clad in black and donning hard hats, occupied major thoroughfares Lung Wo Road, Time Mei Avenue and Harcourt Road and blocked them with metal barricades and garbage cans. Police accused protesters of stealing poles and guardrails from nearby construction sites and pulling bricks from roads.
Police closed off roads Sunday night and stationed a perimeter around the financial district where the legislature building is located.
The protests occurred on Monday, an annual protest day in Hong Kong that coincides with the date in 1997 when Britain handed over control of Hong Kong back to China. The flag-raising ceremony marking the 22nd anniversary was held for the first time inside the Convention and Exhibition Center, where Lam said the government's style of public engagement must change.
"We also need to reform the way we listen to public views," she said. "Such work should be carried out without delay and will start from me."
Monday was Lam's first public appearance since June 18 when she apologized for the controversy generated by the extradition bill. The proposed law would allow Hong Kong fugitives to be sent to China to face Beijing-controlled courts. Hong Kong functions under a "one country, two nation" system that affords it certain freedoms separate from mainland China, and opponents to the bill see it as a whittling away of the island's independence.
The bill has been indefinitely shelved, but not retracted as protesters have demanded.
Protesters have promised more demonstrations until the bill is rescinded.
Protesters rally against extradition bill in Hong Kong