BEIJING – China’s government urged on Monday for the restoration of “law and order” in its special-status territory Hong Kong and reiterated its support for the city’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, as well as police measures against ongoing anti-government protests.
It was the first time that Chinese authorities gave a press conference on Hong Kong since the former British colony, which nowadays retains significant autonomy from mainland China, was handed over to Beijing in 1997, according to domestic media.
Government officials responsible for relations with Hong Kong said the current situation had “seriously damaged” the rule of law, public order, the economy, citizen’s livelihood and the international image of this global financial hub.
“We call on the people in Hong Kong regardless of their social background to unequivocally oppose and boycott violence,” said Xu Luying, the spokesperson for China’s Honk Kong and Macau Affairs Office.
When questioned on the topic of police action, which has been denounced by activists and organizations like Amnesty International as heavy-handed, another office spokesperson, Yang Guang, dodged the issue.
He said: “What is most dangerous is the lack of effective handling of the violent criminal activities, what is most important now for Hong Kong is to handle the criminal activities in accordance with law and restore law and order, instead insisting that the ‘most dangerous’ scenario would be the lack of effective operations against ‘violent criminal activities.’”
He said accusations that police purposefully held back when a group of thugs, allegedly members of local triad gangs arms with bats, attacked protesters in Yuen Leng on July 21, injuring 45 protesters, were unfounded.
Pro-democracy demonstrations have engulfed Hong Kong for around two months. They were initially organized to oppose a draft extradition bill that critics said would have allowed China to target dissidents in the territory but evolved into a catch-all movement against the local government.
Chief Executive Lam shelved the bill but the protests did not recede, as demonstrators began to call for the release of all those detained in the movement as well as an independent inquiry into allegations of police violence.
Xu said the central government respected Lam’s decision to withdraw the law.
The spokesperson added that the Chinese government continued to firmly support both Lam and the Hong Kong police and warned against foreign meddling
“Some politicians in western countries have frequently made unwanted remarks and pointed fingers to embolden certain forces,” it said.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong authorities arrested 49 people and 16 were injured during a mass protest that swept through the city’s financial district on Monday.