International

‘Hong Kong facing worst crisis since 1997’

A protester throws back a tear gas canister in Hong Kong on Monday, August 5, 2019. Droves of protesters filled public places in several Hong Kong districts on Monday to press on their demands that the city's leader resign.

A protester throws back a tear gas canister in Hong Kong on Monday, August 5, 2019. Droves of protesters filled public places in several Hong Kong districts on Monday to press on their demands that the city's leader resign.   | Photo Credit: AP

Chinese official says protests are getting increasingly violent and having “a broad impact on society”

China on Wednesday said Hong Kong is facing the most severe crisis since the city was handed over to Beijing by Britain in 1997.

Those protests are getting increasingly violent and having “an increasingly broad impact on society,” said Zhang Xiaoming, Director of the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in Hong Kong.

“It can be said that Hong Kong is facing the most severe situation it has faced since the handover,” Mr. Zhang told Hong Kong residents attending a seminar in the mainland city of Shenzhen just across the border from the Asian financial hub that has been wracked by daily protests against the administration of Chief Executive Carrie Lam.

Officials in Beijing were “highly concerned” and studying the situation to decide on measures to take, he said.

China so far has not visibly intervened in the situation, though in editorials and statements from officials it has condemned demonstrators and protest organisers as criminals, clowns and “violent radicals” and alleged that they have been inflamed by politicians from the U.S., Taiwan and elsewhere.

Speculation that the military could be deployed grew after Chinese officials pointed to an article in Hong Kong law that allows troops already stationed in the city to help with “public order maintenance” at the Hong Kong government’s request.

Ms. Lam reappeared on Wednesday at the opening of an exhibition marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Communist state.

“Over recent months, conditions in Hong Kong society have been extremely unstable,” Ms. Lam said in remarks distributed by her office. “The special administrative region government will certainly join with all of you to deal with it calmly, restore social order, safeguard rule of law and cherish Hong Kong, cherish ‘one country, two systems,’ and cherish our home.”

Pro-democracy lawmakers continued to criticise Ms. Lam’s handling of the protests. Claudia Mo told reporters that Beijing and Ms. Lam were employing a two-pronged strategy of using the police force to handle the protesters physically while also attacking them ideologically by labelling their movement as seeking to destroy the “one country, two systems” framework.

“We all know this (Hong Kong) administration has become completely untrustworthy and this is just so sad for Hong Kong,” Ms. Mo said.

Lawyers’ march

Protesters have come from all professions and age groups. On Wednesday, several hundred lawyers sought a meeting with Secretary of Justice Teresa Cheng and staged a silent protest. The authorities have refused to open a dialogue with protesters and there was no immediate response from Ms. Cheng’s office.

Margaret Ng, a lawyer, said they wanted to meet Ms. Cheng to seek an assurance that there was no political motive in prosecution of those detained. More than 500 people have been arrested since the protests began and dozens have already been charged with rioting.

A timeline of events

China's semi-autonomous city of Hong Kong has been rocked since April by increasingly violent protests that were sparked by a proposed extradition law. Here is a timeline of events leading up to the agitation:

April 28: Tens of thousands of people march peacefully against a local government Bill that would allow, for the first time, extraditions to mainland China. There are fears the law will tighten Beijing's grip on civil society and allow it to pursue its political enemies in Hong Kong.

June 9: Despite government tweaks to soften the law, tens of thousands more protest again. It descends into violence after midnight when police, using batons and pepper spray hoses, try to disperse small groups of protesters who hurl bottles and use metal barricades. At least 2,40,000 people participated in protests, say police and 19 people were arrested.

June 12: Huge crowds block major roads and attempt to storm Parliament, delaying the Bill's second reading. Police use tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets and bean-bag rounds in the worst clashes since the handover. Nearly 80 people are injured.

June 15: Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam postpones the Bill, but a fresh demonstration the next day calls for its full withdrawal. The Bill is dead.

July 1: Just ahead of an annual march to mark Hong Kong's return to China, young masked protesters take over key roads, sparking new clashes with police. Later in the day hundreds smash their way into Parliament and ransack the building, daubing its walls with anti-government graffiti.

July 9: Lam says the extradition Bill “is dead” but protesters dismiss her comments.

Demonstrators attacked

July 21: Protesters are back on the streets and police fire tear gas and rubber bullets. In the Yuen Long area, masked men -- suspected to be triad gangsters -- attack protesters inside a train station.

July 30: 44 protesters are charged with rioting.

Unrest spreads

August 3: Demonstrators erect barricades in the tourist district of Tsim Sha Tsui.

August 5: Activists disrupt the subway system, paralysing much of the city and delaying scores of international flights. As many as 148 people arrested.

August 6: China warns that “those who play with fire will perish by it”.

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Printable version | Jun 1, 2020 4:51:49 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/hong-kong-facing-worst-crisis-since-1997/article28872075.ece

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