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  HOME | World (Click here for more)

Hong Kong Calm after Historic Strike

HONG KONG – An air of calm returned to Hong Kong on Tuesday, a day after a historic citywide strike paralyzed the territory but Beijing has ramped up its warnings saying the local government and police force were ready to punish lawbreakers.

The sense of normalcy in the special-status Chinese territory settled following hours of protests and clashes between police and protesters and residents of local communities, who felt disturbed by the presence of riot police and clouds of choking teargas near their homes.

In a press conference Tuesday, Hong Kong police said 148 people were arrested during the numerous chaotic rallies sweeping across the city the day before, the highest daily toll since an anti-government movement began in June.

Superintendent John Tse told reporters that 95 males and 53 females, aged between 13 and 63, were arrested Monday for offenses including illegal assembly, assaulting police offices, obstructing the police in the execution of their duties and possessing weapons.

“Within two short months, the rioters have recklessly destroyed the rule of law. Their acts have seriously hampered public safety,” superintendent John Tse told reporters.

Hong Kong has been roiled by a wave of protests for the past two months over a controversial extradition bill that would have allowed suspects to be extradited to the mainland. In recent weeks, both the police and protesters have become increasingly combative in clashes.

It was also revealed at the briefing that riot police fired some 800 tear gas rounds and discharged 140 rubber bullets and 20 sponge grenade throughout Monday, a day of general strike that devolved into widespread chaos in multiple parts of Hong Kong.

Yet, the police were not the only ones to hold a press conference as the dust settled.

Earlier in the day, a group of young protesters not affiliated with any organization gave a press conference condemning the police for their “excessive use of force.” They also apologized to citizens affected by the non-cooperative movement that saw subway and road traffic come to a standstill Monday.

In the early afternoon, however, rumors circulated online and claiming that local mafias would be in North Point to attack people sent many shops, including goldsmiths, jewelers and a department store, in the eastern Hong Kong Island district closing earlier than usual.

The night before, locals in North Point were taken aback by a violent scene in which dozens of men allegedly belonging to the “Fujian clan” local mafia group emerged in the area. Wielding long poles, they attacked anti-government protesters on a street. The mob of attackers fled after the protesters who outnumbered them struck back.

On the same night in Tsuen Wan, a group of men wearing light-blue shirts attacked protesters and passers-by. At least one man was injured by a knife-wielding attacker.

By 19.00 local time (11.00 GMT) Tuesday, no violent incident was reported.

Earlier in the day, a group of young protesters not affiliated with any organization gave a press conference condemning the police for their “excessive use of force.” They also apologized to citizens affected by the non-cooperative movement that saw subway and road traffic come to a standstill Monday.

Addressing the issue of the protests, the Chinese government’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office warned not to mistake “our restraint for weakness.”

Spokesman Yang Guang said: “All those people who take the police as their objective or set fire to police stations are creating great harm to society – this has to stop.”

We have to pay attention to the extremists who threw the Chinese national flag into the sea, defying national sovereignty and the principle of “one country, two systems.”

“This has gotten out of hand and we have to bring them to justice.”

The organ of the Chines government also reiterated its support for Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam.

“We hope that the people of Hong Kong support Lam, the government and the law, and that those who perpetrate these acts will be brought to justice,” he added.

More than 12,000 Chinese riot officers have arrived in the neighboring town of Shenzhen to participate in a mock protest dissolution to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, police announced on the Weibo social network.

 

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