Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam condemns rioters, says protest violence has left everyone 'scared'

Shattered glass windows and damaged turnstiles at Tseung Kwan O MTR station are seen on Oct 5, 2019, the morning after protesters ransacked the facilities. PHOTO: AFP
A protester throws a petrol bomb to light up a makeshift blockade in Hong Kong's Wan Chai district on Oct 4, 2019. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG
Protesters attempting to break into the Central Government Complex in Hong Kong on Oct 4, 2019. They stopped after a while. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

HONG KONG (REUTERS, AFP) - Hong Kong's embattled leader on Saturday (Oct 5) condemned pro-democracy protesters who trashed subway stations and shops the night before as "rioters" who had left much of the strife-torn city frightened and paralysed.

"The extreme actions of rioters created a very dark night for Hong Kong and made Hong Kong society semi-paralysed today," Chief Executive Carrie Lam said in her first comments since Friday's ban on face masks ordered on the basis of the emergency provisions.

"Everyone is very worried and concerned, or even scared."

"Extremely terrifying violence occurred in all districts in Hong Kong," she added.

"The extreme actions done by masked rioters were shocking."

"The extreme violence clearly illustrated that Hong Kong's public safety is widely endangered," she said in a pre-recorded television announcement.

"That's the concrete reason that we had to invoke emergency law yesterday to introduce the anti-mask law."

Hong Kong's entire mass transit rail system was suspended on Saturday after a night of violence sparked by a ban on pro-democracy protesters wearing face masks, as the government imposed emergency powers not used in more than half a century.

The ban was aimed at quelling nearly four months of unrest but instead sparked widespread clashes and vows of defiance, with a 14-year-old boy reportedly shot and wounded.

Mrs Lam said on Friday she made the order under the Emergency Regulations Ordinances - a sweeping colonial-era provision that allows her to bypass the legislature and make any law during a time of emergency or public danger.

"We believe that the new law will create a deterrent effect against masked violent protesters and rioters, and will assist the police" in law enforcement, Mrs Lam said on Friday.

Widespread protests immediately broke out across Hong Kong. Large crowds of mostly office workers blocked roads in the heart of the commercial district.

Some protesters tore down pro-China banners before clashes erupted throughout the evening. Police used tear gas in multiple locations to disperse protesters who had taken over roads, vandalised subway stations, set street fires and trashed pro-China businesses.

In the northern district of Yuen Long, a police officer opened fire when he was surrounded in his car and attacked by protesters, a petrol bomb exploding at his feet.

"A large group of rioters attacked a plainclothes police officer in Yuen Long district. The police officer fell onto the ground and was beaten up by the group. Facing serious threat to his life, he fired one shot in self-defence," police said in a statement.

Also in Yuen Long, a teenage boy was shot and wounded by a live round, the South China Morning Post reported, citing a medical source. It was unclear if that round was linked to the plainclothes officer who opened fire.

The entire subway network was suspended, leaving protesters, locals and Friday night revellers stranded.

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