Hong Kong needs to do more to stop violence, resolve problems, says top official Matthew Cheung

A police officer reacts as an umbrella is thrown towards him during a protest at the New Town Plaza shopping mall in Shatin in Hong Kong on Dec 15, 2019. PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG (REUTERS) - Hong Kong Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung said he was disappointed with recent protest violence after a period of relative calm, as the Asian financial hub geared up for more anti-government demonstrations in coming days.

Mr Cheung, speaking on Tuesday (Dec 17) at a weekly press briefing, was referring to a protest on Sunday during when police fired tear gas in late night street clashes - the first time tear gas had been used in nearly two weeks.

"The work of stopping the violence has not yet been completed, we need to keep working on it. At the same time, we need to put effort on resolving deep rooted problems," said Mr Cheung, the city's No. 2 leader after Chief Executive Carrie Lam.

His comments came after Mrs Lam met Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday.

Mr Xi offered Mrs Lam his support and praised her courage in governing the city during the "most difficult times" of often violent anti-government protests.

Mrs Lam, who is due back in Hong Kong on Tuesday, also met Premier Li Keqiang during her regular duty visit to Beijing.

"Hong Kong right now has not stepped out of its dilemma," Mr Li said, according to remarks broadcast by Cable TV, as he urged Mrs Lam's administration to end the violence.

"The...government should make continuous efforts to bring the violence and chaos to an end in accordance with the law and restore order," Mr Li said.

He also urged the government to address "deep-rooted issues in the economic and social development of Hong Kong" to ensure stability and prosperity in the region.

The financial hub has been embroiled in more than six months of anti-government protests which show no sign of abating.

Protests are scheduled across the city on Tuesday as well as through the rest of the week and into Christmas.

Protesters are angry about what they see as an encroachment by China on wide ranging autonomy Hong Kong was guaranteed under a "one country, two systems" framework which governs the former British colony and the neighbouring casino hub of Macau.

China has rejected the complaints and blamed other countries, including the United States, for inciting the protests.

While the number of protests and the violence have eased in recent weeks, the pro-democracy movement retains broad public backing, with families and older people coming out to recent demonstrations.

They are calling on the government to listen to their demands which include an independent investigation into police behaviour during protests and the implementation of full universal suffrage.

Mr Xi is due to begin a three-day visit to Macau on Wednesday for its 20th handover annivesary and security has been tightened. There have been no protests in the former Portuguese colony.

Last Friday, a 53-year-old Hong Kong man was detained by mainland officers at a checkpoint on the cross-border bridge to Macau and Zhuhai. The man, who was travelling to Macau on a bus, was arrested during a routine security inspection, Hong Kong public broadcaster RTHK reported.

Chinese authorities said the man was believed to be behind a mobile phone smuggling syndicate and had been wanted by the authorities since 2012, said RTHK.

On Tuesday, Mr Cheung said the arrest was perfectly legal. He also believed that the checkpoint on the bridge was set up temporarily to enhance security for the Macau handover anniversary, RTHK reported.

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