HONG KONG - Several newspapers in Hong Kong had an advertisement splashed on their covers on Thursday (Aug 15) calling for peace and voicing support for a police clampdown on anti-government protests that have disrupted life in the Chinese city.
Signed off by a group of "native Hong Kong residents", the ad lists five demands and urges solidarity to protect social order after weeks of protests against an extradition Bill that had caused traffic and flight chaos.
The now-suspended Bill would have allowed fugitives to be deported to mainland China and other jurisdictions for trial, a procedure viewed with suspicion out of fear that Chinese dissidents and critics of China would be unfairly targeted.
The demands, which appeared on the covers of newspapers including Chinese-language dailies Ming Pao and Sing Tao Daily, express support for the police in dealing with the protests and request the Hong Kong government to suspend the approval for all marches and rallies.
The ad also urges parents, school principals and teachers to advise students against taking part in "illegal activities", and law enforcers to prosecute those who "fund, instigate and aid illegal activities of violence and disturbance".
The Hong Kong government is also urged to punish media that spread fake news, glorify illegal activities and violence, encourage citizens to disrupt social stability, and obstruct police from upholding the law.
Hong Kong is bracing itself for more mass demonstrations this weekend after pro-democracy protests crippled its international airport and forced the cancellation of nearly 1,000 flights this week.
Previously touted as peaceful demonstrations, the gatherings have turned increasingly aggressive as demonstrators hurled petrol bombs, bricks and glass bottles at police tasked with their dispersal. Police have also been widely condemned for their heavy-handed repression of protesters which includes the use of tear gas and bean bag rounds that reportedly left one female medic blind in one eye.
Among the protesters' demands for the Hong Kong government are a retraction of its characterisation of the violent clashes as "riots" and an independent inquiry into the actions of the police.
The protests may have been sparked by anger towards the extradition Bill, but have since morphed to cover other concerns, including the erosion of freedoms guaranteed under the "one country, two systems" doctrine, one of the conditions agreed between London and Beijing before the former British colony was handed back to China in 1997.