Radical protesters in Hong Kong must not mistake China’s restraint for weakness, China’s Hong Kong affairs office said on Tuesday, vowing that the “violent criminals” and their masterminds would be punished.
Hong Kong has suffered weeks of sometimes violent protests that began with opposition to a now-suspended extradition law that would have allowed suspects to be tried in mainland courts.
But the protests have swelled into a broader backlash against the government of the Asian financial hub and its political masters in Beijing.
“I would like to warn all of the criminals: don’t ever misjudge the situation and mistake our restraint for weakness,” the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO) of the State Council said in a document issued during a briefing in Beijing.
A small group of violent radicals were at the forefront of the protests, with “some kind-hearted citizens who have been misguided and coerced to join” in the middle, said the document, attributed to representatives Yang Guang and Xu Luying.
It said anti-China forces were the “behind-the-scenes masterminds” who had “openly and brazenly emboldened” the protesters.
“We would like to make clear to the very small group of unscrupulous and violent criminals and the dirty forces behind them: those who play with fire will perish by it.”
It added: “At the end of the day, they will eventually be punished.”
When asked about the possible use of the People’s Liberation Army in Hong Kong, Yang Guang said the PLA is a strong force and will defend every part of its territory.
At the same time, Yang said Hong Kong authorities are capable of bringing under control the situation in the city.
Yang also reiterated Beijing’s “resolute support” for Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, saying “those who will force her to step down will never get what they want”, RTHK reported.
‘Return power to people’
Meanwhile, a group of activists wearing masks and hard hats held a widely televised news conference and urged the city’s leader Carrie Lam to “return power to the people”.
The three activists, who declined to give their real names, held the news conference in Mong Kok. Representatives of the protest movement have not held any news conferences since the demonstrations began two months ago.
“We call on the government to return the power back to the people and to address the demands of Hong Kong citizens,” one activist said during the news conference shown on several local TV channels.
The activists were speaking a day after police fired tear gas at protesters in multiple parts of Hong Kong in the most widespread and intense violence to rock the city in decades.
The news conference reflected the faceless and leaderless ethos of the protests, partly an effort by participants to avoid prosecution by the authorities.
One of the activists said that the group “was not affiliated with any political party or organization leading the movement”.
But the group said their initiative was prompted by Lam’s announcement that the police would hold daily news conferences. The aim was to provide a platform for Hong Kong citizens to voice dissatisfaction with the government and the police, they said.
Hong Kong’s government had failed to take responsibility for the outcry gripping the city, one activist said.
He urged the government to respond to the protesters’ demands: a complete withdrawal of the extradition bill; a halt to descriptions of the protests as “rioting”; a waiver of charges against those arrested; an independent inquiry and resumption of political reform.
The group also reiterated demands for an investigation into police actions and attacks by suspected triad gangsters on civilians on July 21.
“We strongly condemn the police for the series of violent acts and urge them and the government not to be enemies against the public,” the activist said, adding it was the police’s duty to serve and protect civilians.
The government has condemned the protesters’ acts, saying they have undermined law and order and seriously affected economic activities. Reuters
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