HONG KONG (DPA) - Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has rejected United States Senator Ted Cruz's claim that she cancelled a meeting with him because he refused to meet under "closed door" terms.
In a statement issued Sunday (Oct 13) night, a spokesman for Mrs Lam called the Republican lawmaker's assertion that demonstrators had acted non-violently in the last five months of protests "baffling".
"While we respect the freedom of speech of foreign politicians, we consider that comments should be based on facts," the statement said.
Mr Cruz, one of China's most vocal critics in the US Senate, is the most prominent American politician to visit the territory since the protest movement began in June.
Mr Cruz said Mrs Lam scrapped their scheduled meeting on Saturday when he refused to keep their discussions confidential. Mrs Lam's spokesman said the meeting had to be cancelled because another "commitment" came up.
The senator from Texas met protest leaders on Saturday morning in a bid to encourage them to continue their cause in a non-violent manner. Addressing the press, Mr Cruz urged protesters to consider the consequences of using violent tactics.
"There is a reason the Communist Party in China wants the Hong Kong protests to turn violent because the Chinese Communist Party very much wants to characterise these protests as violent acts of terrorism rather than democracy protesters standing up for human rights," he said.
Next week, the US Senate will vote on a Bill championed by Mr Cruz that requires the US to annually assess Hong Kong's autonomy from China as a precondition to its special economic status. The Bill is expected to pass.
In her statement, Mrs Lam said that media outlets have clearly shown that anti-government protesters "conducted violent and vandalistic acts on many occasions in Hong Kong in recent months".
Hours before Mrs Lam's rebuttal, a local officer responding to a criminal damage complaint in Kwun Tong district was wounded by a protester who slashed him in the back of the neck with a "sharp object", according to police.
The officer was conscious when he arrived at a nearby hospital. Two arrests were made on the scene. Video footage circulating on Twitter shows police pepper-spraying civilians on numerous occasions throughout the evening.
Earlier in the day, hundreds of protesters had amassed in all 18 districts of Hong Kong to decry a recent ban on face coverings that Mrs Lam invoked under an emergency ordinance. Police responded with mass arrests, angering protesters and residents alike as many of the arrests seemed arbitrary, according to bystanders.
Tear gas was employed in at least two districts, including the embattled Mong Kok district, where protesters had erected lattices with long bamboo poles across major roadways to block traffic.
Radical protesters in some districts fought back with petrol bombs and bricks. According to police, "rioters hurled objects" onto train tracks at Sha Tin station around 3pm while the station was in use, resulting in various station closures.
In malls across the territory, hundreds gathered to demonstrate, singing the protest song "Glory to Hong Kong" and chanting the newest slogan of the movement "Hong Kongers resist!". A handful of protesters vandalised shops with ties to Beijing in the upscale Taikoo Shopping Centre, while hundreds peacefully demonstrated in another section of the centre.
Perhaps the most unique gathering of the day took place on Sunday morning atop Lion Rock, the highest peak in the city's urban Kowloon peninsula. There they placed a 4m-tall "Lady Liberty" statue that depicts a female protester in full gear, holding a bilingual banner that reads "Revolution of our time, Liberate Hong Kong".
The protests first broke out over a now-defunct extradition Bill that would have allowed Hong Kong residents to be extradited to China, but the demands of the movement have grown to include universal suffrage and an independent inquiry into police violence against protesters.