Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has not ruled out invoking emergency powers as an option to address the escalating unrest in the city.
Facing media before attending a regular Executive Council meeting on Tuesday, Lam was asked whether her administration is considering invoking the Emergency Regulations Ordinance to deal with violent protests.
She said the rule of law provides the best basis to deal with the current social chaos, and that if any of the city’s laws can be used to help achieve the purpose of stopping violence and ending chaos as soon as possible through the means of the rule of law, the government is obliged to go over them, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
The reporter’s question came after Sing Tao Daily, citing government sources, reported that the Lam administration was considering invoking the emergency law as a way to cope with the growing anti-government protests.
Under the Emergency Regulations Ordinance, the Chief Executive in Council, during “an occasion of emergency or public danger”, may make regulations that it considers “desirable in the public interest”.
By invoking the law, the chief executive will have sweeping powers, from authorizing arrests, detentions, deportations and punishment, to censoring the press, seizing property, changing laws or enacting new ones, along with gaining total control of all transport, manufacturing and trade in the city, RTHK reported.
Although Lam did not directly address questions about the emergency law, she said people can rest assured that the government will stop violence and chaos as soon as possible, using the means of the rule of law, which includes all Hong Kong laws.
Asked about the protesters’ demands, the chief executive said the government “has repeatedly given a reply to the demands from different people” over the past two months or so.
“It is not a question of not responding, it is a question of not accepting those demands,” Lam said.
“But the most important demand that we have accepted within days after the outbreak of this incident is to put an end to the[extradition] bill. If the bill was the cause of all these disruptions, that has been stopped over two months ago,” she said.
“So we have to ask ourselves, the continued resort to violence and protests and harassment – what are we going to do? If we continue to tolerate, accommodate and accept demands because of those protests, that will be a very inappropriate and unacceptable response from the government,” Lam added.
Commenting on the possibility that the administration may use emergency powers, Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun said invoking the ordinance is tantamount to imposing a curfew in Hong Kong.
He said that would be a very stupid move as it could only intensify confrontations between peaceful citizens and the government.
Lam should seriously consider the consequences of such a move, To said, adding that she could cause more trouble by taking away the Hongkongers’ freedom of expression and their right to peaceful assembly.
New People’s Party chairwoman Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee urged Lam to think twice about invoking the emergency law, saying such a move will create a lot of risks.
In a radio program on Wednesday morning, To said only a small percentage of the demonstrators are resorting to violence during protests and police have enough manpower to handle the situation.
As such, it would not be proportional to use the emergency law to handle the current political crisis, To said.
The government should resolve the problem using political solutions, he added.
In the same radio program, Liberal Party leader Felix Chung Kwok-pan said it would be hard to gauge how the foreign community would respond, as well as related implications.
There could be a withdrawal of foreign investment from the city, Chung said.
The pro-business lawmaker said the administration should cope with the problem in a way that would receive public support.
Suppressive methods will not solve the problem, he said, adding that he hopes the government will not resort to extreme means to handle the problem.
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