Protest organisers and lawmakers slam Beijing's HK response

Mr Jimmy Sham (centre), convener of the Civil Human Rights Front, the group behind recent protests, called on China's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office to "get its facts right" before commenting on Hong Kong. PHOTO: ST FILE

HONG KONG - Protest organisers on Monday (July 29) rejected remarks by China's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO) which held its first press briefing on the city since it was established in 1997, calling the conference a "waste of time".

Instead, the organisers repeated calls for Chief Executive Carrie Lam to set up an independent commission to look into allegations of police brutality that has seen protests escalate into violent clashes.

The city has for weeks been gripped in a political crisis, with millions having taken to the streets to protest against a now-suspended Bill that had proposed to allow fugitives to be extradited to jurisdictions including mainland China.

The protests have since evolved into a call for wider democratic reforms.

"In the short term, we need to have an independent commission for Hong Kong to recover from the recent incidents, and for the city to return to normalcy. In the longer term, there needs to be political reforms," said Mr Jimmy Sham, convener of the Civil Human Rights Front, the group behind recent protests.

He called on the HKMAO, which had described the protests as "evil and criminal acts committed by the radical elements" in Hong Kong, to "get its facts right" before commenting on the city.

"What we're seeing is the police using violence to clamp down on peaceful protesters. Violence breeds violence, and because the police started using it first, protesters have had no choice but to retaliate," he told journalists outside the Legislative Council Building.

"Look at the protest at the airport last Friday. There was no police presence, look how peaceful it was," he said.

In a separate press conference, pro-democratic lawmakers said Beijing's "condescending" comments were a "worrying development" which would only serve to fan the flames in Hong Kong.

"(The HKMAO) said they 'resolutely support' Carrie Lam and the police, they are trying to split Hong Kong into two... and that's absolutely worrying," said lawmaker Claudia Mo.

"They made a feeble attempt to right what they think is a security problem in Hong Kong but that won't help the political crisis in Hong Kong," she added, calling for Beijing to honour universal suffrage, which had been promised by 2017.

Civil servants are also planning a rally on Friday to protest against the administration's response to the crisis, an indication of growing discontent even within the government's own ranks.

The Hong Kong Journalists Association on Monday also called on the government and police to take seriously accusations of police brutality, saying that journalists and photographers have been repeatedly harassed, injured and blocked from doing their jobs by officers at protest sites.

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