Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has called protesters involved in a citywide strike “rioters” who are “selfish” following international calls for “sincere dialogue” after violence erupted across the city yesterday.
In her weekly press conference on Nov. 12, Lam said the citywide strike called by “extreme netizens,” who obstructed roads and brought public transportation to a crawl, was intended to “paralyze” the city, adding that their actions were “extremely selfish.”
The action for a citywide strike, which started yesterday, was propelled by public anger in response to the death of 22-year-old Alex Chow Tsz-lok, who died from cardiac arrest on Nov. 8 after clashes between protesters and police in Tseung Kwan O. The police have denied any responsibility in his death.
On Nov. 11, more than a dozen metro stations were closed and some light rail services delayed after protesters took a number of different actions, including throwing items on tracks, blocking subway doors from closing, and pressing the emergency buttons on metro cars.
Today, many metro stations remained shut down as protesters continued their campaign to block roads and disrupt public transportation.
Lam added that if her government were to decide to halt its daily activities and operations, it would be to fall into the protesters’ “trap.” She added that she will not give in to the demands of the “rioters.”
Lam added that many students have been arrested in recent days, calling on schools to remind their students not to take part in any illegal activity and to stay away from protest areas.
Yesterday, violence spread to multiple universities as police entered campus grounds and fired tear gas in confrontations with some student protesters. According to Hong Kong media outlet HK01, at least four protesters were arrested by the police from the Chinese University of Hong Kong campus after the students blocked nearby roads as part of the strike action.
Protesters blocked roads near City University of Hong Kong and the Chinese University of Hong Kong in the morning on Nov. 12, prompting the police to fire tear gas in response at both locations, according to local media RTHK.
In response to a reporter’s question about the upcoming district council elections on Nov. 24, Lam said that the elections were an important part of Hong Kong’s political system. She expressed hope that they would still be held under “fair and safe” conditions, despite the fact that some offices of the pro-Beijing candidates have been vandalized.
Lam also did not address the fact that Joshua Wong, the prominent student leader of the 2014 Umbrella Movement, has been barred from running in the elections. Nor did she comment on allegations of “political persecution” over the arrests of seven pro-democracy lawmakers, who have since been released on bail.
Spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State Morgan Ortagus issued a statement on Nov. 11, expressing “grave concern” over the violence in Hong Kong.
“We condemn violence on all sides, extend our sympathies to victims of violence regardless of their political inclinations, and call for all parties—police and protestors—to exercise restraint,” the statement read.
Yesterday, a 21-year-old protester, surnamed Chow, was shot with a live round by a police officer at close range. Additionally, a middle-aged man was set on fire after an argument with a group of people in the Ma On Shan neighborhood. Police later said the argument was with pro-democracy protesters, but did not identify a perpetrator.
Ortagus called on Lam’s government and the protesters to hold “sincere dialogue … to address the underlying concerns driving the protests” and urged Beijing to “honor the commitments it made in the Sino-British Joint Declaration,” which guarantees the city a high degree of autonomy under the “One Country, Two Systems” agreement.
“We repeat President Trump’s call for a humane resolution to the protests,” Ortagus said.
UK-based NGO Hong Kong Watch in a statement on Nov. 11 condemned the escalation of police violence, the use of live rounds, and the action against the middle-aged man.
It called on the UK government to enact Magnitsky sanctions against the perpetrators of human rights violations in Hong Kong, and the U.S. Congress to pass the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.
The proposed U.S. legislation was passed by the House last month and now awaits voting on the Senate floor.
“Just a few days after #Beijing announced the Communist Party of #China would take a ‘firmer hand’ the police recklessly escalated the violence against protestors,” he wrote, in reference to comments made by Zhang Xiaoming, director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office within communist China’s cabinet-like State Council.
In an article published on the Office’s official website on Nov. 9, Zhang had called for a “firmer hand” in Hong Kong, including strengthening the city’s “law enforcement power” and educating students about “Chinese history”—that being the history approved by the Chinese Communist Party.
Rubio added: “The world is witnessing the true nature of the Chinese government.”