The Hong Kong leader says she has the backing of Xi to face the riots
HONG KONG: In battle Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said Tuesday she received the backing of the Chinese president Xi Jinping in his handling of five months of anti-government protests in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory, while hundreds of masked protesters returned to the streets.
Xi and Lam unexpectedly held talks Monday night on the sidelines of a trade event in Shanghai amid signals from China's central government that it may tighten its grip on Hong Kong to quell the unrest that has at times challenged Chinese rule.
Lam said at a press conference in Shanghai that he expressed care and concern during his brief meeting, along with supporting the measures taken by his government to end the crisis. She promised that the government will strive to end violence with strict law enforcement.
Lam said she was disturbed by the growing injuries during the protests, including an incident on Monday morning that left a 22-year-old university student lying in a pool of blood in a parking building after police fired tear gas. Hospital officials said the victim was in a critical condition.
Lam said investigations will be carried out to determine exactly what happened, and that the case took home the government's message that violence should cease.
Television images showed riot police firing tear gas against the building after objects were thrown at them in the street when they drove off a mafia. Minutes later, medical workers found the student unconscious on the second floor of the building.
Police officer Suzette Foo said Tuesday night that the young man reportedly had fallen from an upper floor, but was not captured by security surveillance cameras. She did not rule out the possibility that he was fleeing tear gas, but noted that the police fired from a great distance. He also refuted the online claims that the police put pressure on the victim.
It is a disturbing incident. We will certainly investigate this case completely and do our best to discover the truth, Foo said.
Hundreds of black-clad demonstrators wearing Guy Fawkes masks _ which are protest symbols worldwide _ rallied Tuesday night in Hong Kong's busy Tsim Sha Tsui district to mark the one-month anniversary of a government ban on facial coverings at rallies. Some protesters vandalized shops and set up road barriers as they marched along streets.
We are out to tell the government that we will not be cowed. We will fight to the end, Hong Kong people will not give up, a protester wearing a Guy Fawkes mask said on local television. Police later fired a and quickly broke up the rally.
Earlier Tuesday, Hong Kong Chief Secretary said Xi's meeting with Lam was a vote of confidence in the city's government. But pro-democracy lawmaker warned of a tougher stance by Beijing.
The message to Hong Kong people is that we are with her, she has our backing and you better watch out, Mo told The Associated Press.
China's Xinhua News Agency reported that Xi also demanded unwavering efforts to stop and punish violent activities. He called for more dialogue and efforts to improve people's livelihoods in one of the most expensive cities in the world.
China's Communist Party last week indicated it may try to find a way to enact anti-subversion laws in Hong Kong, after such measures were shelved previously due to public opposition.
The protests began in early June against an extradition bill that would have allowed suspects to be sent for trials in mainland China, which many saw as infringing on Hong Kong's judicial freedoms and other rights that were guaranteed when the former British colony return to China in 1997.
Lam abandoned the bill three months after the protests, but the movement by then had become calls for greater democracy and police responsibility and had become one of Xi's biggest challenges since coming to power in 2012. Lam provoked greater anger by invoking emergency powers to ban masks at demonstrations.
More than 3,300 people have been arrested since the protests began. In a bloody incident Sunday night, a man who held a knife believed to be a supporter of Beijing cut two people after an argument and bit part of a local politician's ear outside a mall. Police arrested the assailant and two men who attacked him.
Cheung said the government plans to hold a second community dialogue after the November 24 district elections. Lam held his first town hall meeting on September 26, where he was criticized by angry residents.