Hong Kong’s legislative council complex has been declared a “crime scene” lawmakers said on Tuesday (July 2), hours after police used tear gas to clear protesters who had stormed the building to protest against an extradition bill.
Police cleared roads near the heart of the financial center, paving the way for business to return to normal following extraordinary violence on the anniversary of Hong Kong’s 1997 return to Chinese rule.
A calm descended on Hong Kong early on Tuesday. Debris including umbrellas, hard hats and water bottles were the few signs left of the mayhem that had engulfed parts of the Chinese-ruled city overnight after protesters stormed and ransacked the legislature.
However, the former British colony’s government offices, where protesters smashed computers and spray-painted “anti-extradition” and slurs against the police and government on chamber walls, were closed on Tuesday.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said on Tuesday (August 20) she hoped the peaceful protest over the weekend was the start of an effort to restore peace in the city and that the government would speak to peaceful protesters as well as tackle complaints against police.
Lam said the police watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPPC), had set up a task force to investigate complaints about police actions, whilst also reiterating that there is no plan to revive the controversial extradition bill.
“One is an important fact-finding study in addition to a very robust system to investigate and look at the complaints against police over this prolonged period of confrontations and violence. The other is a more rare arrangement, is for the IPCC (Independent Police Complaints Council), which is statutory and independent, to create a fact finding study into the causes and the facts of these incidents. So, I hope that this is a very responsible response to the aspirations for better understanding of what has taken place in Hong Kong,” she said.
“The second area of work that I have announced, which will give us much better basis to address some anxieties and differences in society, is we will start immediately a platform for dialogue with people from all walks of life. So, this is something that we want to do in a very sincere and humble manner. I and my principal officials are committed to listen to what the people have to tell us and we want to reach out to the community as soon as possible,” she added.
Hundreds of thousands of protesters rallied peacefully in the Chinese-ruled city amidst torrential rain on Sunday (August 18) in the eleventh week of what have often been violent demonstrations.
Aside from Lam’s resignation, demonstrators have five demands – complete withdrawal of the extradition bill, a halt to descriptions of the protests as “riots”, a waiver of charges against those arrested, an independent inquiry and resumption of political reform. (Reuters)
(Production: Ronn Bautista, Joyce Zhou, Juarawee Kittisilpa)
U.S. President Donald Trump weighed in on the tensions in Hong Kong releasing a tweet Wednesday (August 14) that said, “I have ZERO doubt that if President Xi wants to quickly and humanely solve the Hong Kong problem, he can do it. Personal meeting?”
China said on Wednesday Hong Kong’s protest movement had reached “near terrorism” and more street clashes followed ugly scenes the previous day when protesters set upon men they suspected of being government sympathisers.
The United States said it was “deeply concerned” at news of Chinese paramilitary police movement near the border, urged Hong Kong’s government to respect freedom of speech, and issued a travel advisory urging caution when visiting the city.
By nightfall, police and protesters were again facing off on the streets, with riot officers shooting tear gas almost immediately as their response to demonstrators toughens.
Ten weeks of increasingly violent confrontation between police and protesters have plunged Hong Kong into its worst crisis since it reverted from British to Chinese rule in 1997.
Flights resumed on Wednesday amid heightened security at Hong Kong airport, one of the world’s busiest. This followed two days of disruptions sparked by protesters swarming the airport, where, late on Tuesday, they detained two men they suspected opposed them.
China’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office in Beijing called the behaviour at the airport no different to terrorism and said it must be severely punished.
“We’re deeply sorry about what happened yesterday,” read a banner held up by a group of a few dozen demonstrators in the airport arrivals hall in the morning.
“We were desperate and we made imperfect decisions. Please accept our apologies,” the banner said.
In chaotic scenes that would once have been unthinkable for Hong Kong, a peaceful sit-in at the airport turned violent late on Tuesday as protesters confronted and held a man they believed was an undercover Chinese agent.
Busloads of riot police arrived in response, clashing with furious demonstrators before withdrawing once the man was removed, and leaving the terminal briefly in control of activists who then briefly detained a reporter from China’s Global Times newspaper, a nationalistic tabloid run by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily.
It was not clear whether the scenes of violence might have eroded the broad support the movement has so far attracted in Hong Kong, a major financial hub. The protests have also hit the city’s faltering economy. – REUTERS
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