China denounces Hong Kong protests as 'undisguised challenge' to its rule

Huge crowds of democracy activists earlier staged a march calling for Beijing-appointed Chief Executive Carrie Lam to step down and for a reverse of what they see as years of sliding freedoms. Dozens were injured in the clashes, both protesters and police. Protesters wearing hardhats and protective goggles smashed their way into the building, spray-painting "HK IS NOT CHINA" on the walls and draping a colonial-era flag over the dais.

Wong also alleged that police officers had "double standards" in enforcing the law, saying pro-Beijing legislators and their staff members have benefited by better treatment than their opposition counterparts throughout the weeks of protest outside the legislature. The protesters this morning who were storming LegCo could have been dispersed easily by the police.

A representative of China's Hong Kong affairs office denounced the demonstrators - furious about proposed legislation allowing extraditions to China - and said Beijing supported holding criminals responsible.

Zhu Yonghua, a naval commander involved in the exercise, told the Communist Party mouthpiece People's Daily that the drills will help improve the Chinese military's ability to "help the Hong Kong government protect the lives and property of its citizens".

Britain's Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said his country's support for Hong Kong and "its freedoms is unwavering" and urged restraint from protesters in comments echoed by the European Union.

It is the latest in a series of protests against a controversial bill that would allow extraditions to mainland China.

Peaceful demonstrations had been planned for Monday, the 22nd anniversary of Hong Kong's handover from British to Chinese rule. Anecdotally, conversations with young Chinese, in China and the United States, evidenced no particular interest in the Taiwan question, and now a recent poll with a professional sampling confirms that general indifference: "O$3 nly 22 percent of respondents selected ... reunification with Taiwan ... as among their top five issues". Because of the initial 1990s migration wave and the subsequent return, numerous Hong Kong residents likely to migrate to Canada are already Canadian citizens, having obtained citizenship during the first migration wave, or are the children of people who did.

A tense calm descended on Hong Kong early on Tuesday, hours after police fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters who had stormed the legislature in chaotic scenes to protest against an extradition bill in a direct challenge to Beijing. "Some companies may want to leave Hong Kong, or at least not have their headquarters here". The bill has been suspended in response to the outrage.

Looking exhausted and subdued, Hong Kong's embattled top official, Chief Executive Carrie Lam, called a press conference at 4:00 a.m. local time, three hours after police reoccupied the legislature, and deplored "the extreme use of violence and vandalism by protesters".

Some analysts argue that the protesters risky gambit on Monday, despite it ending with relatively little confrontation and no injury, will hurt their chance at winning more autonomy for Hong Kong - and instead convince Beijing that Hong Kong must have even less space to operate.

The flag raising ceremony draws a small number of protesters every year. but Monday's rally was far greater than expected.

The immediate spark for the current protests was a push by Lam to fast track a bill allowing extraditions to mainland China - a proposal she has since postponed, but not permanently abandoned.

"It will not only serve no objective, but will also severely hinder economic and social development", the ruling Communist Party's official paper said, denouncing what it called artificially created division and opposition.

Lawmaker Michael Tien - one of the few pro-establishment figures to express concerns over the extradition bill, told reporters that the protests demonstrated the need for political reform.

  • Leroy Wright