|Wan Chai, having the highest average earnings among the city's 18 districts, is concentrated with commercial, residential and governmental entities. Investors from mainland China have overheated the property market here, widening the gap between rich and poor by the most in recent years. The city's Gini index from last year had already surpassed 0.5 ― the limit after which social unrest such as a riot can happen. Between 0 and 1, the city had recorded 0.539 last year. The divided society has pushed people, especially the young generations, to considering emigration. According to a survey by the Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies from the Chinese University of Hong Kong released in March 2018, 51 percent of Hong-Kong residents aged 18-30 had considered emigration. The city government's extradition bill proposition has pushed those wary citizens to the edge, making them fear their liberty is at stake. Above, passengers crowd a subway car at Wan Chai Station, Hong Kong, on July 4. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk|
Korea Times photographer Choi Won-suk has been sent to Hong Kong to record historic events taking place there. The photos here are from Wan Chai, the richest district in the city, and Sham Shui Po, the opposite. Hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong people have been protesting to stop the introduction of an extradition law that could enable China to extradite dissidents from China's special administrative area. The protesters are also pushing for the resignation of Beijing's favored Chief Executive Carrie Lam. Broadly, the protests are targeting China with the goal of blocking its heavy intervention and protecting Hong Kong residents' rights. ― ED.
By Clifford Lo, Christy Leung
A government source said the group of around 10 diehards with a "bring it on" mentality were prepared to face batons and rubber bullets during clashes with police that day, and they were in the cross hairs of police going after those who perpetrated the unprecedented invasion and trashing of the Legislative Council building.
|A man rummages through trash on Thomson Road in Wan Chai, Hong Kong, July 4. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk|
"The protesters at the front were willing to sacrifice themselves. They turned so violent, hoping police would use aggressive force against them or shoot them with rubber bullets or beanbag rounds," the source said.
"If the individuals were badly injured or even killed, all the blame would have been placed on police so as to spark global condemnation, and eventually bring the whole administration down."
|A basketball court on Wan Chai Road in Wan Chai, Hong Kong, July 4. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk|
The source said the administration expected this radical group to organize more protests and provoke further clashes to achieve its aims.
They were among the dozens of protesters against the government's now-suspended extradition bill who had already been identified and would be the target of a police operation to arrest those responsible.
|People walk down Thomson Road in Wan Chai, Hong Kong, July 4. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk|
The South China Morning Post newspaper was told that officers from the Organized Crime and Triad Bureau were also trying to identify those behind this group.
Police made the first arrest on Wednesday in their hunt for protesters who spent hours smashing the glass front of the legislature with makeshift battering rams before rushing in to vandalize the premises.
The suspect, a man, 31, faces charges including forcible entry and criminal damage.
|A window at Wan Chai Muay Thai in Wan Chai, Hong Kong, offers a glimpse inside the martial art school with students warming up. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk|
Another source said police were trying to identify hundreds of protesters inside and outside the Legco building during the 11-hour siege who dispersed when officers in riot gear moved in, using tear gas.
No one was arrested during the one-hour clearance operation, and those occupying the Legco chamber had already fled.
The source said protesters considered less violent would be the next target for police, even though they might not have been directly involved in smashing their way into the building.
|Sham Shui Po, with the high population rate of migrants from mainland China, has long been left behind in Hong Kong's land development. Economic, cultural polarization due to a cultural gap and communication barrier between Hong-Kong residents and the migrants has been dividing the citizens there. One of the poorest districts, Sham Shui Po mirrors the city's social gap between rich and poor that is one of the world's worst. Above, a man carries a box on Shek Kip Mei Street in Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong, July 4. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk|
"They broke the law as they attended an unlawful assembly. If it is classified as a riot in future, they may also face the charge of taking part in riot," he said.
The Legco siege on Monday made headlines around the world, as mostly young protesters vented their rage against the government and demanded the complete withdrawal of the bill, which would have allowed the transfer of fugitives to mainland China and other jurisdictions with which Hong Kong has no extradition deal.
They began the assault at 1 p.m. using a metal cart and iron bars to smash through the building's glass front while riot police stood inside without taking any action.
|A man collects garbage scraps on Fuk Wing Street in Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong, July 4. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk|
Police retreated when the protesters broke in at around 9 p.m., allowing the protesters to tear down political leaders' portraits, paint slogans on the walls and smash furniture.
The protesters had fled by the time police took action at midnight to take the legislature back.
|Butchers cut meat on Ki Lung Street in Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong, July 4. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk|
During two days of on-site investigations that followed, police worked with government forensic experts to collect thousands of pieces of evidence, including face masks, goggles, helmets, bricks, stickers and fliers that the protesters had left behind.
Forensic experts were also collecting fingerprints and testing DNA evidence stored in a locked compound at their headquarters in Wan Chai.
|Mailboxes in a building on Un Chau Street in Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong, show the residential building's limited space is overcrowded. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk|
"Officers have also started the painstaking task of viewing video footage from surveillance cameras to identify the suspects," a law enforcement source said, adding that CCTV footage from the centre of the protests in Admiralty and along the routes taken by the demonstrators would also be studied.
He admitted it was a "very difficult task" as most of the protesters had helmets, face masks and goggles to hide their identities, while some CCTV cameras at the Legco complex and nearby areas had been damaged or spray painted.
|Laundry clings to the windows of a dilapidated building on Kweilin Street in Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong, July 4. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk|
The source said investigators were likely to take months to gather all the evidence and complete their work.
According to the city's railway operator, four surveillance cameras were sprayed with black paint at two exits of Admiralty MTR station in the early hours of Tuesday, when many of the dispersed protesters went home by train.
The MTR Corporation did not reveal whether police had asked for CCTV footage from the station.