Tolerance ends, HK chief vows
Updated: 2014-12-02 05:16
By KAHON CHAN(China Daily)
Police remove a tent as they attempt to clear a demonstration site near the chief executive's office in Hong Kong on Monday. EDMOND TANG / CHINA DAILY
Attempt to besiege government HQ spirals into hours of violence, chaos
Police will take resolute action against illegal road blockades outside the Hong Kong government's head offices, the special administrative region's chief executive said on Monday.
Leung Chun-ying warned that the authorities and community have exhausted their tolerance of the protest movement.
Leung spoke just hours after protesters made a doomed attempt to besiege the government headquarters, triggering hours of frantic clashes with riot police and a blockade of Lung Wo Road, a harborside thoroughfare near the headquarters.
Officers brought the situation under control before 8 am on Monday. The road was reopened immediately and the headquarters resumed operations in the afternoon.
In a statement, the Hong Kong government strongly condemned the "violent acts" for endangering public safety and showing a "blatant disregard for the law".
Minor scuffles also broke out in the city's Mong Kok district on Sunday night. Seventeen police officers were injured and 40 people arrested in operations in the two areas.
In Admiralty, where the government offices are located, an officer was hit by a thrown soda can and three off-duty officers were beaten up by an angry mob.
The Admiralty blockades have lasted for more than nine weeks.
Leung said the authorities have shown the utmost restraint to the lawbreakers, as convicting the young people will become their "lifetime's burden".
While police had refrained from clearing the protest areas, he said, some protesters had mistaken this restraint as a sign of incompetence and weakness in law enforcement. He said the student leaders' plot to paralyze the government has made the situation intolerable.
Leung also said calls for protest areas to be cleared have increased and if the authorities allow the chaos to persist it will give the impression that law enforcers can tolerate anything. "From now on, the police will take enforcement action resolutely," Leung said.
Hong Kong's Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok issued a similar message at a separate briefing. He said that following the incidents on Sunday, "we all realized that the demonstration in Admiralty was on the verge of becoming uncontrollable". Police will take resolute action to resume order, Lai added.
Neither Leung nor Lai revealed the exact timing for a full clearance of Admiralty.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong's High Court approved an injunction to ban a blockade of part of the thoroughfare between Central and Admiralty. The order will be issued soon, pending clarification of its scope.
Following the execution of similar court orders against street blockades in Mong Kok on Nov 25, authorities managed to clear the only main protest area outside Hong Kong Island.
Leung urged the protesters, who are calling for political reform, to better understand the constitutional framework that allows Hong Kong's chief executive to be elected by universal suffrage for the first time. Only universal suffrage that conforms to the constitutional requirements is genuine, he said.
The protesters are trying to push the National People's Congress Standing Committee to revoke its decision on the city's electoral arrangements and accept nominating procedures that would contravene provisions of the Basic Law.
The Hong Kong Federation of Students and the group Scholarism, which plotted the failed siege, were condemned strongly by the city government.
It said the groups' deliberate disregard for and distortion of legal principles will delay democratic progress in Hong Kong.
Nonofficial members of the city's Executive Council, which advises Hong Kong's leader, also accused the protest organizers of being irresponsible.
Convenor Lam Woon-kwong said both the organizers and participants need to withdraw from the protests and reflect on their actions.
Shadow Li and Timothy Chui contributed to this story.