Hong Kong Violence Prompts Warning That China Troops Close At Hand
By Staff, Agencies
Hong Kong police shot and critically wounded a protester and a man was set on fire Monday in violence that prompted leader Carrie Lam to denounce “enemies of the people” and drew a chilling warning from a senior Chinese newspaper editor.
Protesters threw Molotov cocktails at police after a weekend of clashes across the Chinese-ruled territory, marking a dramatic escalation in more than five months of often violent pro-democracy unrest.
“The violence has far exceeded the call for democracy and the demonstrators are now the people’s enemy,” Hong Kong chief executive Lam said in a defiant televised address.
“If there’s still any wishful thinking that by escalating violence, the Hong Kong ... government will yield to pressure, to satisfy the so-called political demands, I’m making this statement clear and loud here: That will not happen.”
Police fired tear gas in the narrow streets of the Central business district where some protesters, crouching behind umbrellas, blocked streets as office workers crowded the pavements and hurled anti-government abuse.
Some passersby took cover inside the Landmark mall, one of the oldest and most expensive, as volleys of tear gas rained down.
There have been almost daily protests in Hong Kong, but it was rare for tear gas to be fired during working hours in Central, lined with bank headquarters and top-brand shops. Some offices closed early.
China has a garrison of up to 12,000 troops in Hong Kong who have kept to barracks throughout the unrest, but it has vowed to crush any attempts at independence, a demand for a very small minority of protesters.
The editor in chief of China’s Global Times tabloid, published by the state-owned People’s Daily, said Hong Kong police had nothing to be scared of.
“You have the backing of not only Hong Kong and Chinese people, but also Chinese soldiers and People’s Liberation Army in Hong Kong,” Hu Xijin wrote on his blog. “They can go into Hong Kong to provide support at any time.”
Police fired live rounds at close range at protesters in Sai Wan Ho on the eastern side of Hong Kong island and one 21-year-old protester was wounded. Police said the victim was in critical condition.
Police said more than 120 places has been either vandalized or blocked Monday. Some 266 people had been arrested since last Monday.
Protesters are angry about what they see as police brutality and meddling by Beijing in the freedoms guaranteed to the former British colony by the “one country, two systems” formula put in place when the territory returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
China denies interfering and has blamed Western countries for stirring up trouble.
The violence comes after student Chow Tsz-lok, 22, died in hospital last week following a fall as protesters were being dispersed by police.
Police fired tear gas at Chinese University, where students hurled petrol bombs and barricaded the campus like a fortress. There were at least four arrests.