The Hong Kong government yesterday set the rules for an open dialogue between leader Carrie Lam and the public next week, telling those taking part to be “orderly” and not bring along loudhailers, bunting or umbrellas.
Next Thursday’s talks in the Chinese-ruled city, the scene of more than three months of sometimes violent anti-government protests, will be open to 150 people who must apply online.
“The session will be an open-dialogue platform aimed at reaching out to the public to invite people from all walks of life to express their views to the government, so as to fathom the discontent in society and to look for solutions,” the government said in a statement.
Lam promised to hold the talks to try to end the disruptions in the Asian financial hub. “To ensure the safety of others, participants should behave in an orderly manner,” the government said.
“...Participants should not bring any materials which the organiser considers possible to disrupt the event or cause nuisance, inconvenience or danger to other parties.”
Such items included “loudhailers/sound amplifiers, umbrellas, defensive equipment (such as mask respirators and helmets), flags, banners, buntings, any plastic, glass, metal bottles or containers, bottled or canned drinks, etc.,” it said. Protesters, many of them masked and using umbrellas to hide behind and defend themselves again water cannon, have caused havoc around the city in recent weeks, throwing petrol bombs at police, storming the Legislative Council, trashing metro stations and lighting fires on the streets.
Police have responded with tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets. Hong Kong, a former British colony, returned to China in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” formula that ensures freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland, including right of assembly and an independent judiciary.
Demonstrators are angry about what they see as creeping interference by Beijing, despite the promise of autonomy and the protests have broadened into calls for universal suffrage.
China says it is committed to the “one country, two systems” arrangement and denies interfering.
Hong Kong’s Jockey Club cancelled Wednesday’s races after protesters said they would target the Happy Valley racecourse where a horse part-owned by a pro-China lawmaker was due to run.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International accused Hong Kong police of torture and other abuses in their handling of more than three months of pro-democracy protests, but the police say they have shown restraint on the street in the face of increased violence.
Anti-government protesters, many masked and wearing black, have thrown petrol bombs at police and central government offices, stormed the Legislative Council, blocked roads to the airport, trashed metro stations and lit fires on the streets of the Chinese-ruled city. Police have responded with tear gas, water cannon, rubber bullets and bean bag rounds.
Beijing yesterday accused Washington of “adding fuel to the fire” of Hong Kong unrest after leaders of the city’s pro-democracy movement appealed directly to US lawmakers to exert pressure on China.
Activists from the semi-autonomous city testified before a congressional commission in support of US legislation aimed at defending civil rights in Hong Kong, which has been convulsed by weeks of huge, sometimes violent rallies.
Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a press briefing yesterday that the US should “stop supporting violent radical forces and Hong Kong independence separatists, and stop adding fuel to the fire to the words and deeds that damage the prosperity and stability of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.”
Geng called for the US to “stop interfering in Hong Kong’s affairs in any form.” Millions have taken to the streets of Hong Kong in months of protests, which were initially against a now-dropped bid by its leaders to allow extraditions to the mainland, but broadened into a wider push for democracy.
The hearing on Tuesday examined legislation that would end Hong Kong’s special trading status with the US unless the State Department each year certifies that the city’s authorities are respecting human rights and rule of law.
Beijing has repeatedly accused “foreign forces” of being behind the pro-democracy protests.
A related bill under consideration would ban the sale of tear gas, rubber bullets and other crowd control equipment to the Hong Kong police after concerns that Western imports abetted their crackdown. “As I speak, Hong Kong is standing at a critical juncture. The stakes have never been higher,” said 22-year-old Joshua Wong, one of the most prominent figures in the largely leaderless movement.
“This is a plea for universal human rights. This is a plea for democracy. This is a plea for the freedom to choose,” Cantopop star Denise Ho told the congressional commission.
China summoned Germany’s ambassador last week after Wong visited the European power and met with Foreign Minister Heiko Maas — a meeting Beijing branded “disrespectful”.
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