HK braces for weekend protests as leader fails to appease activists

07-Sep-2019 Intellasia | Reuters | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Hong Kong is bracing for more demonstrations this weekend, with protesters threatening to disrupt transport links to the airport, after embattled leader Carrie Lam’s withdrawal of a controversial extradition bill failed to appease some activists.

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel raised Hong Kong with Chinese premier Li Keqiang in Beijing on Friday, saying a peaceful solution is needed.

“I stressed that the rights and freedoms for (Hong Kong) citizens have to be granted,” said Merkel.

“In the current situation violence must be prevented. Only dialogue helps. There are signs that Hong Kong’s chief executive will invite such a dialogue. I hope that materialises and that demonstrators have the chance to participate within the frame of citizens’ rights,” she said during a visit to Beijing.

People take an escalator next to posters and sticker notes supporting the anti-government protest movement near the Central Government Offices in Hong Kong (Reuters)

People take an escalator next to posters and sticker notes supporting the anti-government protest movement near the Central Government Offices in Hong Kong (Reuters)

Li told a news conference with Merkel: “The Chinese government unswervingly safeguards ‘one country, two systems’ and ‘Hong Kong people govern Hong Kong people’”.

He said Beijing supported the Hong Kong government “to end the violence and chaos in accordance with the law, to return to order, which is to safeguard Hong Kong’s long-term prosperity and stability”.

Protesters plan to block traffic to the city’s international airport on Saturday, a week after thousands of demonstrators disrupted transport links, sparking some of the worst violence since the unrest escalated three months ago.

Many protesters have pledged to fight on despite a withdrawal of the extradition bill, saying the concession is too little, too late.

Several activist and pro-democracy groups say they won’t give up on their other four key demands with rallies planned on Friday evening across the city, at sites such as subway stations and near government headquarters.

The extradition bill, which would have allowed people in the former British colony to be sent to mainland China for trial in courts controlled by the Communist Party, triggered mass protests that have since widened into a backlash against the Hong Kong government and its political masters in Beijing.

The massive, and sometimes violent, protests present Chinese President Xi Jinping with his greatest popular challenge since he came to power in 2012.

Authorities also say the turmoil has weighed on Hong Kong’s economy, which faces its first recession in a decade. There is evidence some funds are being moved to rival financial centres, such as Singapore.

On Friday, ratings agency Fitch downgraded Hong Kong’s credit rating, citing the continued unrest.

Many protesters remain angry over Lam’s refusal to grant an independent inquiry into perceived police brutality against them. Police have fired tear gas, rubber bullets, bean bag rounds and water cannons at protesters, who have retaliated with petrol bombs and bricks in running battles across the densely populated city of 7.4 million.

The protesters’ three other demands are: retraction of the word “riot” to describe rallies, release of all demonstrators arrested and the right for Hong Kong people to vote for their own leaders.

Many residents fear Beijing is eroding the autonomy granted to Hong Kong when it was handed back to China in 1997.

China denies the charge of meddling and says Hong Kong is an internal affair. It has denounced the protests, warning of the damage to the economy and the possible use of force to quell the unrest.

Legislation addressing China’s actions in Hong Kong will be among the top priorities pushed by US Senate Democrats when Congress returns to work after a recess next week, their leader said on Thursday.

https://sg.news.yahoo.com/hong-kong-braces-weekend-protests-025021014.html

 


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