Hong Kong’s Leader Warns ‘No Options Ruled Out’ If Protests Continue

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS)

 

Hong Kong’s Leader Warns ‘No Options Ruled Out’ If Protests Continue

Chief Executive Carrie Lam said she still believes that the people of Hong Kong “should find solutions ourselves.”

Bloomberg via Getty Images

Hong Kong’s leader has issued a veiled warning that Beijing could intervene with force to quell the territory’s violent anti-government protests, but after months of unrest, she said she still believes “we should find solutions ourselves.”

Chief Executive Carrie Lam spoke at a news conference on Tuesday days after invoking a colonial-era law to prohibit the wearing of face masks during protests, which are now in their 18th week. She said she has no plans to enact further emergency powers despite “limitless and lawless” acts of violence by demonstrators over the weekend.

“I still strongly feel that we should find the solutions ourselves,” Lam said.

“That is also the position of the central government that Hong Kong should tackle the problem on her own but if the situation becomes so bad, then no options could be ruled out if we want Hong Kong to at least have another chance,” she said.

Thousands of Chinese troops are stationed throughout Hong Kong but so far have not left their barracks, allowing instead the territory’s police to put down the protests.

Although Lam’s statement on Tuesday is the closest she’s come in the weeks of protest to a direct warning about the possibility China could use force to restore order, a spokesman for Beijing’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the State Council has been less reticent. In August, Yang Guang issued a stark admonishment, saying China has “tremendous power” to put down the protests and that “those who play with fire will perish by it.”

Most of the protesters have worn masks as a way to hide their identities from video surveillance cameras. Although the protesters appear to have almost universally ignored the anti-mask law put in place on Friday, Lam said it was too early to gauge whether the law would work.

“For any new … legislation, it would take time for it to be effectively implemented,” she said.

Hong Kong, a former British colony, was returned to China 22 years ago on a promise of “one country, two systems” that was to have granted it substantial control over its own affairs. However, protesters have accused Beijing of reneging on those promises.

The protests, which began peacefully in June, have increasingly become violent, with pro-democracy activists clashing with police, who have responded with tear gas and batons. One week ago, an officer shot and seriously wounded a protester.

The demonstrations began ostensibly as a protest against a law that would have allowed some in Hong Kong accused of crimes to be extradited to mainland China to face justice there. Although the controversial extradition bill has since been scrapped, the demands of the mostly student-led movement have expanded to include a freely elected legislature and the right to choose a replacement for Lam, who was appointed by Beijing. They are also demanding an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality in their handling of the protests.

The economy of Hong Kong, a vital international financial hub, has taken a beating during the months of protests, which have been exacerbated by the U.S.-China trade war.

CNN reported last week that during a private phone call in June between China’s President Xi Jinping and President Trump, Trump had promised his administration would stay silent on the situation in Hong Kong as long as trade talks continued.

On Monday, however, Trump urged Xi to ensure a “humane solution” in the territory.

“If anything happened bad, I think that would be a very bad thing for the negotiation[s],” Trump said. “I think politically it would be very tough, maybe for us and maybe for some others and maybe for [Xi].”

Hong Kong Protests: Demonstrators Demand Inquiry Into Police Tactics Amid Standoff

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS)

 

Hong Kong Protests: Demonstrators Demand Inquiry Into Police Tactics Amid Standoff

Protesters take part in a march on a street in Hong Kong on Sunday. Thousands of Hong Kong protesters marched from a public park to call for an independent investigation into police tactics.

Vincent Yu/AP

Tens of thousands of protesters returned to the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday, as opposition to an unpopular extradition bill transformed into a demand that an independent investigation be conducted into the forceful tactics used by police during previous demonstrations.

Over the past seven weeks, millions have been demonstrating against Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, seen by protesters as allowing an erosion of freedoms independent of mainland China.

A major flashpoint in the weeks of protests has been opposition to an extradition bill that would have allowed people in Hong Kong to be sent to mainland China to face trials in courts controlled by the Communist Party, prompting fears that prosecutions would target activists critical of China.

Earlier this month, as pressure to kill the effort mounted, Lam apologized for proposing the contentious legislation and declared the bill dead, yet protesters were still not happy since Lam stopped short of formally withdrawing the bill. Lam has said she has no plans to renew a push for the bill, a move that has further dissatisfied protesters.

There have been tense moments during the protests, with riot police using tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons to disperse crowds.

Police officials have defended their tactics, saying force has been used only when protesters became violent. Officials point to actions such as when a small group of demonstrators stormed Hong Kong’s Legislative Council building, shattering glass and tearing down a metal wall, as proof that demonstrators have gotten out of hand at times.

On Saturday, tens of thousands turned out to support the police and protest violence in a demonstration organized by a pro-establishment group.

But on Sunday, masses of people critical of the establishment demanding more transparency and democracy overtook the street again. Some demonstrators carried banners that read “Independent Inquiry for Rule of Law,” asking for an outside probe of what protesters see as excessive force used by police against marchers.

The protest movement has different factions and additional demands, including pro-democracy activists calling for the right to elect their own government, which is now approved by Beijing. Other demonstrators are asking that those who clashed with police have their charges dropped. And some in the crowd fed up with Lam are calling for her resignation.

Although the demonstrators were largely peaceful on Sunday, protesters extended beyond a police-ordered finish point for the rally. Thousands then headed toward the Chinese government’s liaison office.

Rows of riot police assembled near the building, some protesters having pelted the office with eggs before leaving. The Chinese Communist Party emblem at the entrance was also spray-painted over. This breakaway group of protests, some wearing all black and wearing masks, are rallying around the chant, “Liberate Hong Kong, the Revolution of Our Times.”

Hong Kong police used tear gas against the protesters on Sunday in an attempt to force them to disperse.

Organizers said 430,000 demonstrators came out on Sunday. Police offered a lower number, estimating that about 138,000 took part in the marches.

Police on Friday seized a large stash of explosives in a suspected bomb-making factory, where anti-extradition bill pamphlets were also found, but police said the link between the site and the protest movement against the legislation was still under investigation. Local media reported that three men have been apprehended in connection with the seizure of explosives.

NPR’s Julie McCarthy contributed to this report.