US on Hong Kong Protests: ‘No More Violence on Both Sides’

VOA Mandarin Service, Ken Bredemeier, Chris Hannas and Megan Duzor contributed to this article.

The United States is calling for calm on all sides in Hong Kong, as protests took a violent turn in recent days and U.S. officials noted signs of softening among Hong Kong government and pro-democracy demonstrators.

Hong Kong police fired volleys of tear gas to break up anti-government protests on Saturday, as protesters threw petrol bombs and bricks.

“We can’t sit quiet for more violence,” a senior State Department official told VOA on Tuesday.

No more violence on both sides, either from the police or from the protesters, said the official. Certainly, not any large-scale response through violence.

After several weeks of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, the unrest shows no immediate sign of stopping. But the U.S. official says he sees some encouraging signs.

We have seen that (Hong Kong Chief Executive) Carrie Lam has been able to have talks on discussing the protesters’ five demands. Looks like she’s looking to address at least two of them right now. [We] start to see some softening on both sides, and our hope is that all of this resolves peacefully, the official said. There’s got to be some accommodation there.”

Oct. 1 marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of People’s Republic of China.

As the Beijing government is marking the notable date on the political calendar, the senior U.S. administration official says Washington hopes Chinese leaders can resolve this in a way that takes care of the interests and the concerns of the people in Hong Kong who are used to a democratic process or used to being able to having their voices heard.

In Beijing, China voiced “strong dissatisfaction” Tuesday with a joint statement by G-7 leaders calling for Hong Kong’s autonomy in line with Britain’s handover of control of the territory to Beijing in 1997.

The leaders of the industrialized nations at their just-completed summit called for calm in the wake of 12 weeks of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, but Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang accused them of “meddling” and “harboring evil intentions.”

At a news briefing in Beijing, Geng said, “We express our strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition to the statement made by the leaders of the G-7 summit on Hong Kong affairs.”

He added, “We have repeatedly stressed that Hong Kong’s affairs are purely China’s internal affairs and that no foreign government, organization or individual has the right to intervene.”

The Chinese statement came as Lam reiterated her tough stance against protesters, even as she said she met with a group of young people on Monday about the demonstrations. It was unclear whether any of the group included protesters who demand reforms to adhere to the “one country, two systems” framework called for in the 1984 agreement to maintain Hong Kong’s semiautonomous status.

A new survey released by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute indicated Lam’s popularity stands at about 25%.

The demonstrators have contended that Lam has ignored their demands for the complete withdrawal of an extradition bill that would have allowed criminal suspects to be sent to Mainland China for trial, an independent inquiry into alleged excessive use of force by police against protesters and democratic elections.

“It is not a question of not responding,” Lam said. “It is a question of not accepting those demands.”

She added, “If violence continues, the only thing that we should do is to stamp out that violence through law enforcement actions.”

Lam said it would be inappropriate for the government to accept the demands of protesters who resort to violence and harassment.

After her news conference, the University of Hong Kong’s mosaic Lennon Wall commemorating the 2014 pro-democracy Umbrella Movement was vandalized.

One senior-level student criticized Lam’s call for dialogue, telling VOA’s Mandarin Service, She needs to display that she is sincere to talk to the society, not just invite so-called ‘young people’ to have a closed-door discussion. I mean, on what grounds can those young people she chose … represent Hong Kong protesters?

Lam has made few public comments through several months of demonstrations that began with a call for stopping the extradition bill and expanded to include demands for full democracy.

Protesters have plans to continue the demonstrations, which represent the biggest threat to peace in the Asian finance center since Britain handed over control of Hong Kong to China in 1997. The protesters say they are demonstrating against what they see as an erosion of rights.

Police arrested more than 80 people during protests Saturday and Sunday that included clashes with police officers.

Source: Voice of America