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Hong Kong's leader condemns 'extreme use of violence' by masked protesters

Meanwhile, China’s central government has condemned the ransaking of the legislature yesterday.

Anti Government Protests in Hong Kong Anti government protesters seen equipped with gas masks and umbrellas to protect themselves Source: Miguel Candela via PA Images

HONG KONG’S LEADER has condemned “the extreme use of violence” by masked protesters who stormed and ransacked the city’s legislature in an unprecedented challenge to Beijing’s authority.

For weeks, the streets of Hong Kong have been thrown into crisis as a result of massive demonstrations over a bill that would allow extraditions to the Chinese mainland.

However, yesterday – the 22nd anniversary of the city’s handover to China – protests erupted as groups of mostly young, hardline protesters, broke into the legislative council.

They hung the city’s colonial-era flag in the debating chamber, scrawled messages such as “Hong Kong is not China” and defaced the city’s emblematic seal with spray-paint.

Police charged into the building shortly after midnight.

The events pose an unparalleled challenge to Chinese leader Xi Jinping, who has so far left Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam to handle the protests.

In a pre-dawn press conference, Lam, the city’s Beijing-appointed chief executive, described the scenes of vandalism as ”heartbreaking and shocking”.

This is something we should seriously condemn because nothing is more important than the rule of law in Hong Kong.

The city’s police chief added: “Protesters’ violent acts have far exceeded the bottom line of peaceful expressions of demands.”

Hong Kong Protests Protesters raise a banner reads Beyond redemption, no retreat in front of a defaced Hong Kong logo Source: Vincent Yu via PA Images

Meanwhile, China’s central government has condemned the ransaking of the legislature and said it backed the city’s authorities to investigate the “criminal responsibility of violent offenders”. 

These serious illegal actions trample on the rule of law in Hong Kong, undermine Hong Kong’s social order and harm the fundamental interests of Hong Kong,” the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, China’s cabinet, said in a statement by an unnamed spokesperson.

“It is a blatant challenge to the ‘one country, two systems’ bottom line. We express our vehement condemnation against this,” the spokesperson said.

‘Tyranny’

Yesterday, some hardline protesters appeared to have reached breaking point, saying they felt compelled to storm parliament because their concerns were going unheard.

“We have marched, staged sit-ins… but the government has remained unmoved,”one protester, told AFP.

“We have to show the government that we won’t just sit here and do nothing.”

“There are no rioters, just tyranny,” read one banner hoisted above the podium. 

Hong Kong Protests Police officers spray pepper spray as protesters uses a cart to ram into the glass wall of the Legislative Council in Hong Kong Source: Steve Leung via PA Images

Following yesterday’s protests, the legislature has closed today while police inspected the damage inside the building.

Pro-democracy lawmaker Eddie Chu was stopped from entering his office as police cordoned off the debris-strewn building with barricades.

“The police said the whole place is a crime scene. So now the whole place is basically taken over by the police,” Chu told reporters outside.

Under the terms of Hong Kong’s handover from British to Chinese rule in 1997, the city enjoys rights and liberties unseen on the autocratic mainland. But many residents accuse Beijing of reneging on that deal with the help of unelected leaders.

‘Gentle hearts’

Yesterday, the US voiced its support for the protesters, with President Donald Trump saying the demonstrators were “looking for democracy”.

“Unfortunately, some governments don’t want democracy”, he added, in an apparent swipe at Beijing.

Hong Kong Protests Protesters get inside the Legislative Council after they staged a rally Source: AP/PA Images

Chinese state media dismissed the protests as “mob violence”.

“Chinese society is all too aware that a zero-tolerance policy is the only remedy for such destructive behaviour”, the state-run Global Times daily wrote in an editorial.

“Otherwise, and without this policy, it would be similar to opening a Pandora’s Box, upending social disorder,” it warned.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt expressed “unwavering” support for “Hong Kong and its freedoms” but urged restraint from protesters.

The increasingly hardline tactics have divided the people of Hong Kong, with some calling for the protesters to focus on finding common ground with government supporters.

Brokerage executive Chris Cheung told AFP the decision to attack the legislature was “unwise and unnecessary”.

“Violence can’t change the people’s attitude, only reason will,” he said.

Includes reporting by © AFP 2019 

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