Date
22 October 2019
Yang Guang, a spokesman for  the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the State Council, talks to reporters at a news conference in Beijing on Monday. Photo: Reuters
Yang Guang, a spokesman for the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the State Council, talks to reporters at a news conference in Beijing on Monday. Photo: Reuters

Beijing reiterates support for Carrie Lam, praises police

The central government continues to “resolutely support” Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and “highly appreciates” the work of the police in maintaining law and order, the State Council office in charge of the city said on Monday, amid the political crisis gripping Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO), in its first-ever news conference since the 1997 handover, also called on Hong Kong people to oppose violence following another weekend of clashes between protesters and police.

The city has been rocked by protests over the past two months against the now-suspended legislative proposal that would allow people to be extradited from the city to stand trial in Communist Party-controlled courts in mainland China.

But what began as a movement to oppose the extradition bill has taken on broader demands, including Lam’s resignation and an independent inquiry into what some say has been excessive force used by police against protesters.

“The central government firmly supports Carrie Lam leading the Hong Kong government’s administration according to law, firmly supports the Hong Kong police strictly enforcing rule of law,” Yang Guang, a spokesman for the office, told the news conference.

The most important thing was for Hong Kong to handle the unrest according to the law, Yang said, blaming irresponsible figures in the West for stirring up the trouble in a bid to contain China’s development.

Such efforts would fail, he said.

Asked under what conditions the People’s Liberation Army could intervene, Yang referred, as other officials have done, to the Basic Law, which states that the Hong Kong government can ask the PLA garrison in the city to help maintain order.

Legal scholars have described that as a high threshold.

Yang said the SAR government and society needed to come up with more effective ways to help young people address concerns over housing, employment and other issues, although officials did not announce any specific measures to address the unrest.

Reacting to the HKMAO news conference, Civil Human Rights Front convener Jimmy Sham Tsz-kit said it was “a waste of time” since the State Council did not announce the removal of Lam, whom he accused of dereliction of duties and breach of responsibilities.

Sham urged the State Council to reflect on how to deal with Hong Kong’s deep-seated problems.

Establishing an independent commission of inquiry is one way to ease the deteriorating situation in the city, and implementing genuine universal suffrage is a long-term solution, he said.

Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai said the HKMAO remarks showed that Beijing was not willing to offer any political solution to the current crisis, RTHK reported.

“I can foresee the situation will get even worse in the coming future,” the public broadcaster quoted Wu as saying.

He also expressed fears that Beijing is now paving the way for the deployment of PLA troops in the city.

Labour Party lawmaker Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung, who has tried to mediate between activists and police, told Reuters that Lam needed to heed demands to withdraw the extradition bill and set up an independent commission of inquiry, among other requests.

“Short of that, we would only be spiraling down towards even more violence, death, a curfew and even PLA interference,” Cheung said.

The past weekend saw more clashes between protesters and police, who again fired rubber bullets and tear gas as the demonstrations grew increasingly violent.

Police sought to defend China’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong from protesters on Sunday for the second consecutive weekend, with the building near the heart of the city fortified with barricades.

Police said they had arrested at least 49 people over Sunday’s protests for offenses including unauthorized assembly and possession of offensive weapons.

The protests are the most serious political crisis in Hong Kong since it returned to China 22 years ago.

They also pose the greatest popular challenge to Chinese leader Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012.

The American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong said on Monday that, according to a recent survey, international businesses were pessimistic about the short-term prospects for the city due to escalating violence and political deadlock.

Respondents reported a deepening perception within their companies and among overseas customers that Hong Kong had become less safe and a riskier place in which to conduct business, it said.

A series of protests are planned over coming weeks and the outlook is increasingly uncertain. With a Reuters report

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