July 02, 2019
Beijing’s liaison office says storming of parliament is ‘an extreme challenge’ to the rule of law
A protester is seen holding a steel pipe trying to break the glass outside the Legislative Council building [Vernon Yuen/NurPhoto via Getty Images]
By Verna Yu in Hong Kong | The Guardian
The Chinese government has issued a strong condemnation of protesters who stormed and vandalised the Hong Kong’s legislature late on Monday, calling the act “totally intolerable”.
In a statement carried by the state-run Xinhua news agency, the Chinese government’s liaison office in Hong Kong, its top representative organisation in the city, said it was “shocked, indignant and strongly condemned” the siege of the parliament building, which followed a day of protests against a controversial extradition bill late on Monday.
“Some extreme elements used excessive violence to storm the legislature building and carried out a series of large-scale assaults. This is shocking, heart-breaking and angering,” the statement said. “Their violent acts are an extreme challenge to Hong Kong’s rule of law and seriously undermined Hong Kong’s peace and stability. It is totally intolerable.”
The statement said the China liaison office backed the Hong Kong authorities to investigate the violent acts to safeguard Hong Kong’s law and order.
Meanwhile, the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the State Council, or China’s cabinet, issued a similarly-worded statement of condemnation, vowing to support the Hong Kong authorities in investigating the “violent offenders’ criminal responsibility”.
The statement said 1 July, the 22nd anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover of sovereignty from British to Chinese rule, should have been a “joyous day” but some “extreme radicals” use the extradition bill as a pretext to storm the legislature.
“These serious illegal actions trampled on Hong Kong’s rule of law and damaged Hong Kong’s social order,” the statement said. “It is a blatant challenge to the bottom line of the ‘one country, two systems’ formula. We strongly condemn this.”
Tensions over the weeks-long movement against the bill escalated on Monday, and Hong Kong police fired teargas early on Tuesday to disperse hundreds of defiant protesters who had occupied the city’s legislature – spraying graffiti and raising the old colonial flag – on the anniversary of Hong Kong’s 1997 return to Chinese rule.
As smoke filled the air, hundreds of protesters wearing hard hats, goggles and masks ran away, clutching umbrellas to protect themselves against the teargas and also to shield themselves from security cameras. At least 54 people had been taken to hospital after the protests, according to the Hong Kong hospital authority.
The president of the legislative council said repairs to the “extensively damaged” complex were “expected to take a long time”. He added that over the next two weeks meetings of the council would not be held as scheduled.
A state newspaper published by the Communist party mouthpiece the People’s Daily also called for “zero tolerance” of the incident.
“Out of blind arrogance and rage, protesters showed a complete disregard for law and order,” said both the Chinese and English versions of the Global Times in an editorial on Tuesday.
“Chinese society is all too aware that a zero-tolerance policy is the only remedy for such destructive behaviour witnessed. Otherwise, and without this policy, it would be similar to opening a Pandora’s Box,” it said.
Opponents of the extradition bill, which would allow people to be sent to mainland China for trial in courts controlled by the Communist party, fear it is a threat to Hong Kong’s much-cherished rule of law.
In a break with its silence over pro-democracy demonstrations in past weeks, Chinese state media ran footage on Tuesday of police in Hong Kong clearing protesters from streets and moving into roads surrounding the legislative council, where protesters smashed through glass and metal barriers to occupy the space for about three hours on Monday night.
In an editorial, the state-run China Daily reiterated the principle of “one country, two systems” in Hong Kong – a formula that allows freedoms not enjoyed in mainland China – saying the former British colony is an “inalienable” part of China, and that Hong Kong affairs concern only China.
“The only way for the special administrative region to sustain economic growth and maintain stability is for it to further integrate its own development into the nation’s overall development,” the newspaper said.
Meanwhile, the paper published a celebratory news report about the anniversary of the handover.
“A festive atmosphere enveloped Hong Kong on Monday as people from different backgrounds joined various activities to celebrate the anniversary,” wrote the newspaper.
The article mentioned the protests in the final paragraphs of the story.
“Also on Monday, a large number of protesters took to the streets to march against the government’s suspended extradition amendment bill. Some clashed with police as they stormed into the legislative council,” said the article.
Analysts say they fear China would further tighten its control over Hong Kong as it tends to see mass protests and calls for democracy as a threat to its rule
Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, also condemned “the extreme use of violence” by masked protesters who stormed and ransacked the city’s legislature.
In a pre-dawn press conference, Lam, the city’s Beijing-appointed chief executive, described the scenes of vandalism as “heartbreaking and shocking”.
Additional reporting by Christy Choi in Hong Kong