Beijing, July 29 (IANS) China’s government on Monday urged for the restoration of “law and order” in its special-status territory Hong Kong and reiterated its support for the city’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam as well as police measures against ongoing anti-government protests.
It was the first time that Chinese authorities gave a press conference on Hong Kong since the former British colony, which nowadays retains significant autonomy from mainland China, was handed over to Beijing in 1997, media reports said.
The Chinese government accused pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong of committing “evil and criminal acts” that seriously damaged the semi-autonomous city’s “reputation” and “stability”.
At a press conference in Beijing on Monday, Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO) spokesman Yang Guang called the situation in Hong Kong “grave”, adding that Beijing would not allow any challenge to the Chinese government’s authority or threats to national security.
“No civilization or society under the rule of law would ever allow acts of violence to take place. We call on the general public of Hong Kong to be aware of the grave nature of the current situation,” Yang said, calling on Hong Kong citizens to condemn protesters’ violence.
Hong Kong has been governed under a “one country, two systems” model since the city transferred from British to Chinese rule.
Hong Kong has seen eight consecutive weekends of anti-government protests that began in early June in opposition to a controversial — and now-shelved — bill that would have allowed extradition from the city to mainland China.
There were violent clashes over the weekend in Hong Kong as the police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters. Barricades were also erected at several different locations in the city.
Chinese government officials said the current situation in Hong Kong had “seriously damaged” the rule of law, public order, the economy, citizen’s livelihood and the international image of this global financial hub.
When questioned on the topic of police action, which has been denounced by activists and organizations like Amnesty International as “heavy-handed”, HKMAO spokesperson Yang Guang dodged the issue, according to Efe news.
“What is most dangerous is the lack of effective handling of the violent criminal activities, what is most important now for Hong Kong is to handle the criminal activities in accordance with law and restore law and order, instead insisting that the ‘most dangerous’ scenario would be the lack of effective operations against ‘violent criminal activities.'”
He said accusations that the police purposefully held back when a group of thugs, allegedly members of local triad gangs arms with bats, attacked protesters in Yuen Leng on July 21, injuring 45 protesters, were unfounded.
The protests, initially organized to oppose the extradition bill, have now evolved into a catch-all movement against the local government.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Lam shelved the bill but the protests did not recede, as demonstrators began to call for the release of all those detained in the movement as well as an independent inquiry into allegations of police violence.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong authorities arrested 49 people over a mass protest on Sunday that swept through the city’s financial district.